Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6 by Larry W Peebles August 25, 2017 17.32
It was another typical workday. The line formed at my office door early in the morning, and continued non-stop until late afternoon. I was the Division President of a national home building company, and one-by-one the front-line operations managers of the Division came to talk with me. They might have questions regarding customers. They might have unusual problems regarding construction. They might want to discuss strategy regarding sales. They might have a new solution, and were just looking for someone to listen. In between these meetings, I had to take calls from my boss, and of course home office. These calls usually dealt with high level corporate plans or directives. The call might involve an update on Division performance versus budget, something the stock analysts were always interested in knowing. By late afternoon, the calls and line at my door had diminished, and I could actually begin to work on some of my own individual responsibilities or assignments. This would mean I could not finish before 6-7 pm, which would be another 10 hour day.
We set operating policies for the Division that covered 98% of the problems and questions that arose. We met face to face to resolve any other issues that did not fit the guidelines. We were entrusted to set the policies, and we were responsible to deal with the exceptions. These meetings were vital for a number of reasons. First, we talked until we agreed on the solution. Second, I knew what was happening in the Division, and knew where we were having problems. Third, once the issue was resolved, we were all moving forward again in unity. Fourth, everyone involved had input. Although my separate responsibilities had to step back until another’s problems were resolved, I never considered this an undue burden. One of my major responsibilities was to serve the other members of the team in this fashion. General Bruce C. Clarke, USA, Ret., said “Rank is given you to enable you to better serve those above you and below you. It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies.” A good leader in the military is interested in serving those above and below in rank, and puts that as a priority above self.
I did not realize it at the time, but the Bible has a name for this—it is called servanthood. Servanthood is the gift of doing for others, sometimes to the exclusion of meeting personal needs. True leadership is servanthood, and the greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ. In only three years, He reintroduced and reconciled mankind to their loving Creator God, using only twelve disciples. He did so in a way that would never fade away. More books have been written, songs sung, pictures painted, and thoughts discussed concerning Jesus than anyone else in human history. He changed the world forever. He solved problems, connected with people, sought high-level commitments, wisely communicated, and passionately inspired like no other leader has ever done before or since.
Servanthood is an attitude exemplified by Christ “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7) Speaking of rank, Jesus also said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) The five words in the New Testament translated “ministry” generally refer to servanthood or service given in love. If we want to minister to God, or minister in the name of Jesus to others, we must take on the role and attitude of a servant. Jesus said “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) All believers are called to ministry (Matthew 28:18-20), and therefore we are all called to be servants for the glory of God.
Our love for God will be expressed in our love for others. “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) Our servanthood or acts of service are not based on obligation, duty or habit. If they are, they become mindless, meaningless, and resentful. Rather, they are genuinely based on love and gratitude for the love and grace of God, who He is, and what He has done for us. Acts of service are not to be confused with “works”, which cannot save us. True faith in Jesus will both save us and produce action in the form of service to others (James 2:17), but the action of service is produced out of the overflow of the believer’s heart. 1 Peter 4:10 says- “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
My wife and I attend a small non-denominational Pentecostal church in the Atlanta area. We have attended several very good churches in the past, and I do not want to get into comparing churches because each has its own gifts, strengths and purpose. Although this is not its only strength, our current church may be the strongest we have ever seen in the area of servanthood. The attitude of servanthood is led by the Pastor, who sets the example by serving in so many ways. He has an amazing gift of music and worship, and serves by sharing that gift each week as he leads the congregation into true worship of the Lord. He also has a practical gift of helping others who need a hand, and the church has seen that multiply into a body of believers that are continually helping each other. This might involve moving someone from one location to another, lending or buying cars, lending or giving money, and renting or giving an extra room or basement to someone in need. Members of the body are willing to serve with not-so-light construction remodeling work, car repairs, computer repairs, and baby-sitting, just to name a few. There a number of well qualified Bible teachers in the body, and they serve by teaching the Word of God in a variety of settings such as small groups and one-on-one. No church is perfect, but this church does a commendable job of serving one another to meet the needs of the body of Christ. I know of no one who keeps track of how much they have served, nor who expects anything in return. The attitude throughout the church is if one sees another in need, make an attempt to meet it. Everyone can do something. Everyone can lead by serving.
I conclude with these three Scriptures on servanthood:
- Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
- Matthew 20:26- “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
- John 15:12-13- “My command is this: Love each other as I loved you. Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for one’s friends.”
The greatest leader the world has ever seen is Jesus, and He set the example as a servant/leader. Servanthood may not be the first quality the world thinks of when naming characteristics of great leaders. Jesus made it clear that this should be our mindset. The prophet Isaiah wrote “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)