Our internal thesaurus usally equates the title “leader” with “boss”, “numero uno” or “a monkey could do their job”. We’ve all been in scenarios where…
If John Maxwell were to have a Simpson’s-like catch phrase, it would be “Leadership is influence”. Rick Warren is often heard to say (beyond other things) “Leaders are readers”. Both of these statements are true, at least in my experience, and have been a catalyst in equipping church leaders and pastors for the past 15 years. (By the way — I think I’ve heard every one of John Maxwell’s Injoy Life Club tapes — I found a giant batch of them in my home church basement). I know the 21 laws. I’ve seen Purpose Driven in many vehicles. These have made a difference, no doubt.
But now I’m learning about the leader as a servant. The writings of Robert K. Greenleaf are what fill one of my textbooks for my MA program. Let me tell you that this is not just another textbook. Greenleaf is the founder of the Servant Leadership movement. I’m not suggesting that John Maxwell et al don’t write from the perspective of servanthood. But their philosophical perspective on leadrship is that of pragmatism, meaning that success is measured by consequence. While the goal of leadership/management is to bring positive consequences, it can be devistating to focus only on results. Greenleaf focuses on the importance of developing the person, both the leader and the follower, and that positive results will naturally follow.
Greenleaf suggests that a servant leader is a servant first, which means that the desire to lead is secondary to the desire to serve. Go ahead and read that again. It’s important.
This way of thinking about leadreship is less about pragmatism (results-oriented) and more about morality (people-oriented), which assumes that organizations that are being served and strengthened by servant-leaders will naturally bring about positive results. This is the aim of pragmatism. Both may bring the same results but do so by starting from almost opposite perspectives. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.
Application for the local church:
May the Lord help us to serve our people as we aim together for meaningful results!