Christian Leadership as Service
In the early 1970s, Robert Greenleaf proposed the servant leader model in secular business schools. But this concept is not new because the idea of leadership as service is already introduced in the Gospels by our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Jesus submitted his own life to sacrificial service under the will of God (Luke 22:42), and he sacrificed his life freely out of service for others (John 10:30). He came to serve (Matthew 20:28) although he was God’s son and was thus more powerful than any other leader in the world. He healed the sick (Mark 7:31-37), drove out demons (Mark 5:1-20), was recognized as Teacher and Lord (John 13:13), and had power over the wind and the sea and even over death (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 9:18-26)…In John 13:1-17 Jesus gives a very practical example of what it means to serve others…he washes the feet of his followers, which was properly the responsibility of the house-servant” (christianleadership.org).
Leadership in the Christian community is different from the corporate community. In business, success in leadership is often measured in terms of achieving targets, goals, profit forecasts, etc. But in Christian standards, success in leadership implies growing intimacy with God, depth in spirituality and the degree of dying one’s self for others, especially the less fortunate and the poor in the Christian community.
Exercising Christian leadership in the corporate world may be difficult but attainable as long as managers and employees have strong Christian spirituality and the business organization provides structures to develop the company’s Christian spirituality, especially on work and leadership. This implies establishing common activities in the company which can nurture prayer life in the workplace for workers and managers.
The Christian Servant Leader
Like Christ, a Christian leader does not aim to be served but to serve. In business, it means that Christian managers and business leaders must serve their subordinates–their workers, especially the rank-and-file workers as they are the most vulnerable group in the corporate community. The Church teaches the moral principle of giving preference to the poor or “the preferential option for the poor.”
In business leadership, being a servant leader implies he or she must prioritize the welfare of the poor or the lowest-ranked employees in the company. They must provide extra care to the workers’ needs such as the giving of a just wage, social benefits, and humane working conditions. This is the Christian servant leader’s higher purpose in the workplace. The leader must not only be concerned with increasing the company’s profit but also improving the workers’ social welfare. A Christian servant leader is a “servant first” in relationship to people and not a “king” to be served by workers and slaves.
- “There is a big difference between serving the needs of others and being a servant of others’ needs.
- Serving the needs of others is liberating. It implies recognizing their needs (without judging them) and then doing what can be done, in line with the higher purpose of serving God first, to help satisfy that need. Whereas;
- Being a servant of the needs of others requires that one must do anything and everything possible to satisfy those needs, whether it is in line with one’s service to God or not.
- The servant leader himself/herself is a growing leader, led and grown by the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus was the only human being who never abused his power.
Applying these considerations of Jesus as a role model for Christian leaders we can see that, from a Biblical perspective, a servant leader is a person, who is:
- Christ-centered in all aspects of life (a voluntary servant of Christ)
- Committed to serve the needs of others before their own,
- Courageous to lead with power and love as an expression of serving,
- Consistently developing others into servant leaders, and
- Continually inviting feedback from those that they want to serve in order to grow towards the ultimate servant leader, Jesus Christ” (christianleadership.org).
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_________. (n.d.) “Jesus: The Role Model of Christian Leadership”. Retrieved from http://christian-leadership.org/jesus-the-role-model-for-christian-leaders/.