Of all the teachings on Servant Leadership, I love the ones of Ken Blanchard the most. Instead of using wooden language to satisfy corporate ears, he goes back to basics and embraces the leadership model defined by Jesus.
Instead of taking faith out of the business world, Blanchard proposes a leadership style that puts self-sacrifice, showing the way and investing in others’ growth above selfish interests, a need for gratification or climbing the ladder.
Blanchard’s model is simple and practical: servant leadership starts in the heart, continues with beliefs and actions, and ends with habits.
Leadership is first a matter of the Heart
A servant leader is driven by selfless motivations and intentions. He cares more about the purpose and mission of his organization, and less about his title.
When offered an opportunity, a servant leader doesn’t put his self-interest first: instead, he prioritizes the benefit of others. That’s because he cares more about leading his people in the right direction than he cares about protecting his position or gaining advantages.
When Jesus was tempted and was offered power and recognition, he chose to stay true to his mission. His motivations and intentions were pure and clear. He was not distracted by a promise of gratification, and he didn’t worry that he will be seen as weak if he says no.
Jesus had his priorities straight: he knew why he’s here and where he’s going, and he made that clear to his disciples too. Instead of withholding knowledge and concealing information, he dedicated his time and energy to teaching and showing the others how to reach the end goal. His intentions were pure and his heart self-sacrificing.
Jesus was so preoccupied with his mission, that he didn’t worry for one minute that someone else — maybe one of his disciples — will use his knowledge and wisdom for their own benefit.
Also, he wasn’t worried that he’ll lose his glory if he’s not the smartest in the room. When brought in front of the Romans, he didn’t try to show off or to dominate by raising his voice. He spoke the truth while staying humble and modest.
He wasn’t afraid to let go of his power. He didn’t try to escape humiliation and he was ready to carry the burden and to take the blame for his people. He was moved by a greater purpose, not by selfish ambitions.
If you’re an aspiring leader, don’t mimic it. Check your motivations and intentions and make sure your heart is in the right place. Aim to lead like Jesus.
Leadership is effective when the Heart and Head are aligned
The intentions and motivations of a leader can be good, but if his beliefs and perspective on the role of a leader are skewed, his leadership won’t be effective.
A leader who says something and does the opposite is not trustworthy and is not worth following. A servant leader doesn’t try to influence people or to persuade them into doing something. Instead, he makes the vision clear and he shows the way.
The thoughts, beliefs and motivations of a true leader are aligned. He believes he’s called to be a servant first, so he acts like one. He wants to please God, not the others. He cares less about his image and more about doing what’s right.
A servant leader sets clear expectations and is reliable. If he offers help, it’s not just words. Jesus didn’t promise his disciples that he’ll take care of them, just to disappear afterwards. On the contrary, when they were afraid that the storm will kill them, Jesus came to their rescue.
Jesus didn’t have a predefined image that he wanted to portray. He didn’t think a leader should be loud, but he raised his voice when it was needed. He didn’t think he should be tough, but he was assertive when it was needed. And he didn’t try to be popular, but his leadership style made thousands of followers.
Above all these, Jesus didn’t care about hierarchies. He didn’t try to climb the ladder, and he didn’t try to surround himself only with the cool guys. On the contrary, he turned the hierarchy upside down and looked at the heart of his followers, not at their titles.
If you’re an aspiring leader and you’re worried that your people don’t see you as their superior, check your beliefs and your perspectives. Pray for a servant heart and a clear mind.
The Hands of a leader show how it’s done
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he didn’t do it because they were dirty. He wasn’t trying to fix them and he also wasn’t doing them a favor. Instead, he wanted to send a clear message to the others: whoever wants to be served must start by serving.
He didn’t just tell his followers beautiful words about his mission and vision, but he showed them where and how to start living a life of purpose. A leader who only talks and never gets his hands dirty is not a leader.
Jesus never asked his disciples to do something that he wasn’t willing to do. He didn’t expect them to do the hard and dirty work in his place. Instead, he shared his values, showed how it’s done and empowered his disciples to go in the world and apply his teachings.
A servant leader prepares disciples, instead of making himself irreplaceable. He cares less about pride and image, and more about leading the others in the right direction, training and empowering them.
Before dying, Jesus made sure that his disciples were ready to carry out their mission. While coaching them, he didn’t test them hoping that they’ll fail. He didn’t ask them to run all their initiatives through him. And he didn’t check all their work to make sure it’s good enough.
If you’re an aspiring leader, be ready to get your hands dirty. When hard times come, don’t blame your people so that you look better in the eyes of others. Aim to coach like Jesus.
A leader’s Habits when nobody is watching
Jesus wasn’t two-faced and he wasn’t an opportunist. He didn’t go to God to complain about his disciples or to talk behind their backs. His behavior was consistent and was aligned with his motivations and beliefs.
Jesus wasn’t playing power games and he wasn’t trying to pull strings neither. He cared less about his reputation and more about his mission. When faced with criticism and lack of commitment from his disciples, he didn’t blame them. Instead, he asked for God’s forgiveness in their name.
A servant leader doesn’t change his behavior when the door closes. He lives his values even when no one is watching, and he practices discipline because he believes in consistency, not because he’s threatened with being fired.
Commitment, consistency and integrity define a servant leader. If you aim to be one, check your habits and make sure they don’t change when nobody sees you.
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