Servant Leaders

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash
“He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” John 13:5

What kind of leader are you?

  • Democratic
  • Autocratic
  • Laissez-Faire
  • Strategic
  • Transformational
  • Transactional
  • Coach-Style
  • Bureaucratic

How about Servant Leader? Many people cite this as the leadership model demonstrated by the historical Jesus. Despite the concept being much older, and long associated with Jesus, the phrase came to prominence in leadership theory due to Robert K. Greenleaf in an essay first published in 1970; “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”

Interestingly, Greenleaf doesn’t directly cite Jesus as his inspiration, yet the theory is as counter-cultural in the age of capitalism as Jesus was in the 1st century Middle East. Greenleaf was a faithful Quaker, who was involved in cooperative and social justice work. This is of little surprise when you read his work. Yet he always insisted that his work was for people of all faiths and all institutions, secular and religious.

Reflecting on Jesus as leader has continually inspired me in all that I do at school – WWJD?

The defining notion of servant leadership is that the primary purpose as leader is to serve. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he gave an example of how to show great love while doing the lowliest of jobs. It was clear that he was servant first, not leader first. By being a servant, you allow those in your care to grow, and hopefully become servants too.
In this passage, Jesus’ basic motivation was love. He was fully aware of his position as leader; his disciples called him Master, and had already shown he was a strong and extremely powerful leader. Jesus voluntarily becomes servant; he wasn’t primarily a foot washer, but was ready to do it if required. Finally, he made it clear that it was an example to be followed.
The servant leader is not at the top of the pyramid of power, looking down on all he or she has amassed. The servant leader is at the bottom of the inverted pyramid, sharing power, putting the needs of others first and helping people develop and perform as best they can. Caring can be institutional as well as individual; however big or small our team is, whatever the remit or need to ‘get the job done’, but can do it with care. If a better team is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, more creative, then the capacity to serve must be increased.
Being a servant leader
  • It’s voluntary – it is beyond your personal interests or interests of others, often for the ‘greater good’
  • It’s using entrusted power to serve others – not mange or simply lead them
  • It’s putting others needs before your own – often through love
  • It’s in word and deed – it is teaching your team to become servant leaders themselves
Questions to consider?
  • Will you, without hesitation, do the jobs you ask others to do? (Registrations, cover lessons, supervise detentions, lunch duty)
  • Do you lead in word and action? (Keeping deadlines, marking work, responding to emails)
  • How will you keep touch with everyone that you work with? (Their stresses, workload, pressures…)
  • Who is your servant leader model? Who allowed you to grow into a creative, caring, supportive leader?

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty; never ask others to do what you wouldn’t.