Every person is called to be a leader in some way. We see parents as leaders teaching children to grow into whole persons. We see teachers leading children to be all they can be. We see civic leaders working for their communities. The list of ways we are called to be leaders is practically endless. One description of leadership is seen in the person who is a servant leader.
The servant leader must be:
Patient – showing self-control – The leader always has the responsibility to hold people accountable. However, there are ways to point out deficiencies while allowing people to keep their dignity. Our job as leaders is to point out gaps between the standard that has been set and their performance, but it does not have to be an emotional event. The word discipline comes from the same root as disciple, which means to train. The goal of any disciplinary action should be to correct or change the behavior, to train the person and not to punish the person.
Kind – giving attention, appreciation, and encouragement – Kindness is about how we act, not how we feel. The greatest opportunity we have to pay attention to people is by listening to them. The work of active listening takes place in your head. Active listening requires a disciplined effort to silence all internal conversation while we are attempting to listen to another human being. It requires a sacrifice, and extension of ourselves to block out the noise and truly enter the world of another person, even for a few minutes. To be kind is to be empathetic and this takes great effort to always identify with the other person.
Humble – being authentic and without pretense or arrogance – What is wanted from real leaders is authenticity, the ability to be real with people. Real leaders are not puffed up or stuck on themselves. Humility is nothing more than a true knowing of yourself and your limitations and being able to discard false masks. Those who see themselves as they truly are would surely be humble indeed.
Respectful – treating others as you would yourself – We would do well to treat all people as important people. The real leader has a vested interest in the success of those being led and tries to assist them in becoming successful. Christian leaders recognize the innate dignity of each person as the reflection of her/his Creator.
Selfless – meeting the needs of others – This is when being a leader who serves and sacrifices is put into practice on a daily basis and with everyone. It is about meeting the needs of others even when it means sacrificing your own needs and wants.
Forgives – giving up resentment when wronged – Forgiveness is not about pretending bad things didn’t happen or not dealing with things as they arise, rather, it is practicing assertive behavior with others by being open, honest and direct, but always in a respectful manner. It means then letting go of any lingering resentment.
Honest – sticking to your choices – Honesty is about clarifying expectations for people, holding people accountable, being willing to give the bad news as well as the good news, giving people feedback, being consistent, predictable and fair. In short, our behavior must be free from deception and dedicated to the truth at all costs.
Commit – sticking to your choices – We need to be committed to the commitments we make in life. True commitment is about individual and group growth along with continuous improvement. The committed leader is dedicated to growing, stretching, and continuously improving – committed to becoming the best leader she or he can be. This requires commitment, passion, and a vision on the part of the leader of where she/he and the group are headed.
In what ways are you a leader?
Which of these descriptors of a servant leader are the hardest for you?
Which descriptors do you most relate to?