Are You A Servant Leader?


Leadership is one of those things that people have a lot of opinions about.  There are a lot of books, articles, podcasts and teaching about leadership.  Yet this idea of servant leadership is still difficult for many people in our culture to grasp.  It does not come naturally to most leaders and cannot be implemented simply by studying the ideas.  Most leaders really grasp these concepts of leadership when they have a belief and personal relationship with the ultimate leader of all time Jesus Christ.  Serving others as a leader is no simple, easy task; yet this style of leadership builds great organizations, teams and families.

In 1977 Robert Greenleaf coined this term and wrote a lot about it.  Since then many others have addressed this radically different style of leadership.  Larry C. Spears wrote about ten characteristics of a servant leader and John Barbuto Jr and David Wheeler added one more characteristic in their article entitled Becoming A Servant Leader: Do You Have What It Takes?  These characteristics describe servant leadership and are a great lesson for all leaders to look to if we want to improve our influence and effectiveness.

So here they are:

  • ·      Having a Calling
  • ·      Listening
  • ·      Empathy
  • ·      Healing
  • ·      Awareness
  • ·      Persuasion
  • ·      Conceptualization
  • ·      Foresight
  • ·      Stewardship
  • ·      Growth
  • ·      Building Community

Calling – Do people believe that you are willing to sacrifice self- interest for the good of the group? Servant leaders have a natural desire to serve others. This notion of having a calling to serve is deeply rooted and value-based. Servant leaders have a desire to make a difference for other people and will pursue opportunities to impact others’ lives — never for their own gain. A servant leader is willing to sacrifice self-interests for the sake of others. This characteristic cannot be taught, so unless a person has a natural calling to serve, servant leadership is not a realistic or compatible style.

Listening – Do people believe that you want to hear their ideas and will value them? Servant leaders are excellent listeners. They are receptive and genuinely interested in the views and input of others. People instinctively understand that servant leaders want them to share their ideas and that these ideas will be valued. Listening is a skill that can be learned and is essential for those who desire to be a servant leader. Without good listening skills, many of the other characteristics described in this publication cannot be achieved.

Empathy – Do people believe that you will understand what is happening in their lives and how it affects them? Servant leaders can “walk in others’ shoes.” They understand and empathize with others’ circumstances and problems. Leaders who are empathetic have earned confidence from others by understanding whatever situation is being faced. This characteristic is a skill that comes more naturally to some people than others, but it is pertinent for all who aspire to be a servant leader.

Healing – Do people come to you when the chips are down or when something traumatic has happened in their lives? Servant leaders are people who others want to approach when something traumatic has happened. They have developed a remarkable appreciation for the emotional health and spirit of others. They are good at facilitating the healing process and others gravitate toward them when emotional needs arise. The ability to create an environment that encourages emotional mending is crucial for those who want to become great servant leaders.

Awareness – Do others believe you have a strong awareness for what is going on? Servant leaders have a keen sense for what is happening around them. They are always looking for cues from the environment to inform their opinions and decisions. They know what’s going on and will rarely be fooled by appearances. This skill is crucial to the development of servant leaders.

Persuasion – Do others follow your requests because they want to or because they believe they “have to?” Servant leaders seek to convince others to do things rather than relying on formal authority. They are naturally very persuasive and offer compelling reasons when they make requests. They never force others to do things. This ability is important for servant leaders to develop.

Conceptualization – Do others communicate their ideas and vision for the organization when you are around? Servant leaders nurture the ability to conceptualize the world, events and possibilities. They encourage others to dream great dreams and avoid getting bogged down by day-to-day realities and operations. They foster an environment that encourages thinking big and valuing the creative process. Those who want to be great servant leaders must develop an environment that fosters conceptualization.

Foresight – Do others have confidence in your ability to anticipate the future and its consequences? Servant leaders have an uncanny ability to anticipate future events. This is not to say they are psychic or always right, but they are adept at picking up patterns in the environment and seeing what the future will bring. They usually anticipate consequences of decisions with great accuracy. Those who want to be successful servant leaders need to have and develop this foresight.

Stewardship – Do others believe you are preparing the organization to make a positive difference in the world? Servant leaders often are characterized by a strong sense of stewardship. Stewardship stems from medieval times when a steward would be assigned to hone the skills and development of the young prince to prepare him for his reign. The kingdom relied on the steward to teach and hold the prince in trust so that he would be a successful king. Today the term stewardship involves many of the same things. A steward in an organization is responsible for preparing it for its destiny, usually for the betterment of society. When we describe a leader as having a strong sense of stewardship, we refer to a desire to prepare the organization to contribute to the greater good of society — not unlike preparing the prince to serve the greater good of the kingdom. Making a positive difference in the future is characteristic of the stewardship mentality. Those who desire to be excellent servant leaders need to have a natural sense of stewardship. If you don’t naturally have a stewardship perspective, it is unlikely that the servant leadership style will come naturally to you.

Growth – Do people believe that you are committed to helping them develop and grow? Servant leaders have a strong commitment to the growth of people. They believe that all people have something to offer beyond their tangible contributions. Servant leaders work hard to help people in a number of ways — spiritually, professionally, personally. Those who want to be great servant leaders need to connect to others’ developmental needs and actively find ways to meet these needs.

Building Community – Do people feel a strong sense of community in the organization that you lead? Servant leaders have a strong sense of community spirit and work hard to foster it in an organization. They believe that an organization needs to function as a community. A servant leader instills a sense of community spirit in the workplace. Those who want to be great servant leaders need to work hard to build community in the organization.

Servant Leadership Development

Servant leadership is characterized by a belief that leadership development is an on-going, life-long learning process. For this reason, servant leaders commit to continual development in the 11 characteristics of servant leadership. Some characteristics come more naturally to some people than to others. By their nature, characteristics such as calling, empathy, healing and stewardship are more difficult to learn and develop than other servant leadership characteristics.

These are characteristics that leaders must already have to be successful servant leaders. Characteristics such as listening, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, growth and building community all are learnable skills, so servant leaders can continually develop these. I encourage you to reflect and thoughtfully assess the degree to which you have what it takes to be a servant leader. If you are committed to being the best servant leader that you can be, I urge you to continuously work to develop these characteristics.





Refocus Your Relationships

Fear Is A Liar

Last night I taught a class called Refocus Your Marriage.  Really it could be called Refocus Your Relationships.  I thought I would share a few of the opening comments I shared with that group.

Here are three important truths to remember:

  1. You are made for relationships – We are made to need relationships.  We all have three primary types of relationships:  With others, with ourselves and with God.  Each of those areas needs our attention and development.
  2. You are made with the capacity to Choose – God gave each of us the power to choose.  Choice equals change.  Making a choice is often difficult because it requires change, and that change can be threatening.  We choose how we react to everything around us.  We choose the thoughts we have and those thoughts lead to emotions and behaviors.  So in essence we can control our emotions and behaviors by the way in which we think.
  3. You are made to take responsibility for yourself – The only thing you have control over is yourself.  You get to choose how you think, what you think, what you say and what you do.  When you start to focus on yourself and how you can grow and change you will begin to make progress in your relationships.

I want to introduce you to the emotion that destroys relationships.  This has been going on for thousands of years since the beginning with Adam & Eve.  It has been destroying relationships and people very effectively.  At the core of every person is a button called fear.  That fear takes many shapes, things like fear of failure, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, you name it.

From where does this fear come from?  Let’s take a look at the creation story with fresh eyes Genesis 2:17 – After God created Adam & Eve, he informed them about two special trees blossoming in the middle of the garden:  The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Regarding the first he gave no commandment.  But the second he said “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Why did God create a perfect garden and then put these two trees right in the middle?  Why not outside the garden?  I think it was because he created us to depend on him, not living an autonomous life apart from him.  He gave that command to not eat of the tree so that we wouldn’t become self-sustaining and insist on stubborn control of our own lives.  He wanted us to daily choose to trust Him for everything we need.

I believe that command created a healthy fear in Adam & Eve, the fear of being separated from God.  It also created a fear of losing each other as well.  Well along comes Satan, or the Serpent and he plays on this fear.  “Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”  Eve replies exactly what God told them, we can eat from any tree in the garden  except the tree in the middle of the garden, you must not touch it or you will die.

“You will not surely die, serpent said to the woman.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  My guess is that Eve thought that her fear of being separated from God was not true and therefore took the fruit.  This caused a whole new fear to take root.  This fear was unhealthy and destructive.  When Adam & Eve heard God walking in the garden they hid, because they were afraid.  There fear caused them to respond in a certain way.  After eating the fruit their response became unhealthy, defensiveness, blaming others.

Our relationships are much the same way.  We all have hurts from our past or guilt from us hurting someone else.  Those hurts and guilt drive the fear that drives our unhealthy behaviors.  That causes us to struggle to have healthy, happy relationships.  To learn more about this idea of fear and relationships read the book by Gary Smalley called “The DNA of Relationships”.


A Word to Husbands



Relationships are hard and messy and most men are not good at developing healthy relationships.  Once we get married it is easy to sit back and focus on our work and providing financially or focusing on our own needs.  Most guys, myself included are selfish and we are not always thinking about how to love our wives or lead our household.

Peter talks about this in one of his letters that is part of the Bible.  Peter talks a lot about submission, respect, blessing and honor.  This is not only in marriage relationships but in all relationships.  He writes this after having spent a significant amount of time with Jesus.  After observing how Jesus treated other people he was able to write about how we should treat our bosses, our political leaders and our spouses.

I want to zero in on his comments to husbands.  in 1 Peter 3:7 he is talking to husbands, I like the Message version of the Bible which says “Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.”

He is calling husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. We are to honor our wives and model submission and service. We are to initiate blessing, rather than retaliate when things go wrong.  Men are called to be spiritual leaders and that means we take responsibility for the health of our relationships.  This means we set the tone and we initiate what we want others to do.  Don’t wait for her to start treating you with respect before you make an effort to love and respect her.

The way we treat our wives will affect our spiritual health. It starts with us and how we respond to our wives.  The words we use, the things that we do, the time that we take, and the way that we listen.

Peter sums this up by saying this “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. you’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.”

Now I realize that we won’t always get it right and we will mess up.  We will do selfish things and say stupid things, but in order to love our wives we must keep pushing forward, trying to understand our wives and treat them as a precious gift.  Being humble means asking for and giving forgiveness on a regular basis.  The key is to not give up, keep trying to learn how to love your wife better, learn from your mistakes and above all else keep growing closer to God.  Only God can help you to love your wife the way you should.





Did you know the word prejudice means “prejudging” or “making an estimate of others without knowing the facts?”  I came across an article by Billy Graham about this topic and thought I would share some of his insight into this topic.  I found this challenging and encouraging.

Graham says this about prejudice:

Prejudice stalks many countries. At times it is prejudice against a racial or religious minority within its boundaries. At times it is prejudice against people from other nations. At times it was prejudice or resentment against those who were wealthier or those who were poorer than the average. But prejudice is a universal problem. Why? One reason is because prejudice has its roots in pride-and pride is at the heart of sin. Just as sin is universal, so prejudice is universal as long as our hearts are untouched by God’s retreating power.

Prejudice is a mark of weakness, not strength; it is a tool of the bigot, but never a device of the true Christian. One of our great problems in this complex age continues to grow since modern man has forsaken the pathway of Christian mercy and understanding-and has chosen to walk the road of intolerance and intrigue.

All of us have personal biases and prejudices. Despite our improved educational system, our prejudices have grown in the past few years-so we can conclude that education is not the cure for all prejudice.

There is only one way we can get rid of prejudice: by the process of spiritual rebirth through Jesus Christ. Only then do we discover Gods love for all humanity, and only then will we begin to look at others through the eyes of God and see them as He sees them. Only then does Gods love begin to take root in our hearts, pushing out the hate and indifference and selfishness that have resided there. In myself I do not have the capacity to love others as I should, but “the fruit of the Spirit is love.”  Yes, Christ can give us a love for others we would never have otherwise, “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).

Billy Graham has a way of describing this that makes sense.  Left to ourselves we will never love other people as God intended. We are quick to judge or at least make conclusions about someone before we get to know them. When our hearts start to transform as a result of following Jesus, we begin to think and see differently. Our actions follow and we begin to break the old patterns of prejudice, selfishness and resentment.

Jesus has this to say about this topic: ” Don’t judge other people, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.”  He goes on to say this: “why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friends eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, ‘let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye’? Look at yourself! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will se clearly to take the dust out of your friends eye.”

So it’s important to take a closer look at ourselves and work on our own issues before trying to work on someone else or prejudge someone else. It really starts with our own heart being set right before we can try to reach others.  When our hearts are right we see others completely different and therefore how we go about helping others is completely different.

It’s About Time To Go!



Last Sunday my wife and I went on a bike ride on the local Rails to Trails in Millersburg.  It’s a great place to ride, walk or run because its mostly flat.  We were with several friends enjoying the beautiful day.  The local Amish also use this trail with their buggies because it’s nice to avoid the traffic on the main roads.

On our way back we came up behind a buggy that was going very slow.  I was in front of the group and had to slow down, because some other people were coming the other way on bikes.  We all slowed down as we got behind this buggy and then a young Amish man turned to me and asked what time it was.  I didn’t have a watch on, so I couldn’t help him out, but this is what I said in Pennsylvania Dutch, “I’s bout site for gaya” which means it’s about time to go.  With that I quickly passed him and headed on up the path.  (I know just enough dutch to be a little dangerous.)

That was a brief encounter, but I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my head.  I don’t know why that came to my mind in that moment, but here is what I’ve been thinking about.

It’s about time to go.  Most of us go through life living safely, trying to be as comfortable and happy as we can be.  Our motivation is often for what is best for us or our kids.  We can live selfish, private lives and never really have much impact or influence in the world around us.  It’s so easy to get into our comfortable buggy and ride along the familiar trail and occasionally ask someone what time is it?  Yet That’s not how God intended it.  God never promised that life would be safe and comfortable.  He did promise that he is good and faithful to be with us no matter where we are at.  That should give us courage to go wherever he directs us.

God is telling us that it’s time to go.  It’s time to step out of our comfort zone and push ourselves beyond our perceived limits.  Now I realize that means something different to everyone reading this.  For some it might mean having a difficult conversation with their spouse, teenager or adult child.  Maybe it’s confronting someone at work and speaking the truth in love to them.  It might be to give up some things you enjoy doing so that you can serve at church or spend more time with your family.  It might mean not taking that job because it would hurt your relationship with your family.  It could be to downsize in order to get a grip on your finances.  It might mean taking your relationship with God more seriously and start reading through the Bible.  It could be asking someone for forgiveness and admitting how you got it wrong.  Whatever it means to Go for you, don’t hesitate, start today, find a new trail or speed up on the one your on.  God loves us but he also doesn’t want us to stay where we are at, he wants us to grow in every area of our lives: Spiritually, emotionally, relationally and even physically.  Where do you need to go?

Whatever it is for you “I’s bout site for gaya.”