“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16
By Rick Boxx
While doing research on "Servant Leadership," I came across a quote credited to a seminary professor named J. Carla Northcutt. She stated, "The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves." Think about that for a while.
Sometimes it seems that if the term “servant leader” is considered at all in many of today’s business and professional settings, it basically is understood this way: “I’m the leader – you are the servant. Now do what I tell you to do.” However, as Dr. Northcutt pointed out, the mark of a truly effective leader is not what he or she accomplishes on their own, but what they prepare and empower others to do.
It takes a strong individual to feel secure enough personally to help others advance their careers. A true servant leader constantly looks for opportunities to care for others and encourage them, assisting their people in their personal and professional journeys.
Many leaders, uncertain of their positions or fearful that someone is eagerly working to take their jobs away from them, focus on what others can do to enhance their own image. “Your job is to make me look good,” I once heard a leader inform his team. But is such self-centered thinking conducive to maximizing everyone’s performance? Is it possible to become great by helping others become great as well?
The Bible talks this concept in numerous contexts. The apostle Paul, one of the foremost leaders of the early Church, understood this principle. In 1 Corinthians 10:24 he advised his followers, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." This sounds like a nice ideal to aspire to, but is it realistic in today’s “what have you done for me lately” global marketplace?
Even though it was written more than 2,000 years ago, the Bible would argue this is more than a noble ideal. It should truly be one of a leader’s primary goals. For instance, elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul the apostle wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better (or more important) than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Another apostle, Peter, one of Jesus’ first followers, echoed those convictions when he offered this admonition: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). In other words, if you desire to become a great leader, look for ways you can serve and exalt those around you. In the process, your own standing will rise through the accomplishments of those you are leading.
The greatest leader of all, Jesus Christ, not only expressed his belief in servant leadership but also demonstrated it in the most profound manner: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
If that principle was so important for Jesus, it should be equally important for each of us.
Copyright 2011, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from "Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx," a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.