In Corporate America servant leadership has become popular form of leadership. I believe it’s only true leadership form. I see people struggle with the term servant, especially those of us in the black community. Servant and slave are terms that don’t sit well with us. Although we will sit in church on Sundays and hear how we are to servants and slaves of Christ. Many of us will serve in church, but it stops there. One reason is because having a servant’s mentality, which I equate to a slave’s mentality, is different than having a servant’s heart.
A slave mentality is one where you believe you must serve, because you have no other choice. It’s not a desire of your heart. It’s a mentality of waiting to be told what to do because you cannot anticipate the needs of others. Those with servant mentalities may be nice, pleasant people. They frequently ask what they can do to assist. But therein lays the deception: a servant’s heart anticipates the need and longs to meet the needs of others. Someone with a servant’s heart doesn’t wait to be told what to do.
Jesus said in John 5:19-20 (NIV) “…the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things He Himself does;” As His followers in Corporate America we can anticipate problems and because the creativity of the Holy Spirit lives in us we can solve them. We also should be teachers as Christ taught his followers. Who are you mentoring?
Servant Leadership was first described in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay “Servant as Leader”, but made popular by such authors as Ken Blanchard and Stephen Covey. I love his definition:
The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first; perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
Equally as good is his test of servant leadership:
The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?
Being a servant leader is being committed to the effort of growing as an individual. There is no endpoint to servant leadership development. It begins with knowing who you are and what you bring to the table. The commitment we all must make is to continue to develop our strengths and overcome our weaknesses. It is the most rewarding position to take in society.