Our nation’s religious and political leaders continually disappoint us with their scandals. At work, many of us are stuck in jobs we don’t like following leaders we don’t respect. Servant leadership is the kind of thing that people say they believe in, but you don’t see very often. In contrast, Jesus gave us the basis for it with his example and with his words, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matt. 20:28)
Here’s the difference between the model that you see a lot of leaders live out vs a servant model of leadership:
“Serve Me” Model Servant Model
My needs Followers’ needs
My position Not positionally focused
My agenda Followers’ agenda
My moods Safe environment
The question is, how do you implement this? Donna LaChance and I were talking about leadership years ago and she introduced me to the idea that as leaders, we’re to clear the rocks in the way of the road our team is traveling. And we’re also to fill in the potholes in the road. I expanded on the idea, coming up with the following model based on the acronym R-O-C-K. Here are four things that servant leaders do for their followers.
As leaders, we are taking our team down a road together. The first thing that we notice is that there are potholes in the road. Staff may need training, programs may need financing to accomplish the team’s goals. So, what does a good servant leader do? A good leader will find the resources to fill up the holes and smooth out the road. Jesus does that when he feeds the 5,000 (John 6:26). Having fed them, he encourages them to “work for food that endures to eternal life.” He subordinated his agenda to meet the
felt needs of his followers. When their feet were dirty, he cleaned them.
The next thing we see about the road is that there are large rocks in the way – obstacles. In life, your followers are always going to have obstacles in the way. The obstacles may be problems that need solving, maybe not enough time, maybe procedures that need to be made more efficient. A servant leader removes those obstacles. They organize their days to be interruptible, helping solve problems as they show up.
3. Conflict management
Along the way, it’s normal for team members to begin to have issues with one another. To continue our illustration, they pick up the stones on the road and begin to throw them at one another. And of course this makes trust on the team difficult. It’s a servant leader’s job to create a safe and productive atmosphere in the team. Servant leaders get their followers to put down the rocks they want to throw at one another. They build high trust relationships.
Jesus said he would build his church on the rock. He communicated a clear vision of the kingdom. He talked about it all the time. Similarly, servant leaders must clarify vision for their teams. They need to ask, what is God’s agenda? What does he want done? How does he want to build his kingdom? How does he want us to join him? We owe it to our followers to help them understand where we are going together.
Have you ever worked for a servant leader? What difference did it make for the team?