Servant Leadership – Giving Leadership Away

This week we finish the series on Servant Leadership.  In case you missed any of my previous posts in this series, you can read about An Attitude of Selflessness, Using My Gifts for the Benefit of Others, Doing What’s Beneath You, or The Big Picture You’re In.

For this final post, I’d like to look at one of the great lies of leadership.  It’s the lie that leadership is about what you can do.  The reality is leaders that can do things on their own get all the accolades today, but those that give leadership away are celebrated for years to come.  You see, it’s not about what you do today, but rather what you can empower others to do tomorrow.

If you build a culture of leadership or an organization that is built around you, it won’t be there when you’re gone.  And I hate to break this to you like this, but you’re not always going to be there.  Everyone has a lifespan, don’t allow your organization’s lifespan to be built around your lifespan.  Give leadership away, and you’ll have a much better chance at creating lasting change, as opposed to momentary change.

So how do we give leadership away exactly?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Build a sandbox that other leaders can lead within.  This idea of a ‘leadership sandbox’ comes from the book by T.J. Addington called “Leading from the Sandbox.”  The idea is to create four walls of your organization that give leaders a freedom to lead within.  This involves defining your : 1. Mission 2. Guiding Principles 3. Central Ministry Focus 4. Culture.  As you do this, you create the overall direction for your church/organization, and allow leaders to lead within that box and in the same direction.
  • Always communicate the “why” behind a decision to your team.  This allows others to see how your leadership wheels are spinning, and in turn you are showing others how leadership functions, rather than just giving them a cut and dry direction.
  • Include others in big decisions.  When every leader in your organization is making decisions based on “What will ________ think?” you’ve stripped people of the ability to lead.  Instead of leading, others are actually just observing and acting.  Give leadership away and let them lead.
  • Be willing to listen more than you speak.  Don’t just give direction from the top down, but give people the opportunity to speak and share their perspective.  You never know what wisdom and brilliance might be sitting in the room or around the table unless you’re willing to close your mouth and open your ears.
  • Give people permission to fail.  Part of servant leadership is giving people the room to succeed or fail.  And if they do fail, helping them see what they did so they can learn from it and move on.  If you make failure an evil word in your organization, you’ll find that a few other evil words will pop up: “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Give permission to fail, and opportunity to learn.

Now this isn’t exhaustive, but these are just a few tips on giving leadership away.  As you are able to lead with humility and give leadership away, you won’t really find yourself doing less, but you will find others doing more.  This is the essence of what Jesus did.  He led 12 men to a point where he could eventually give his leadership away, and they fortunately in turn, continued to give it away, and established one of the greatest organizations in the world, the Church.  You can continue that cycle if you’re willing to identify quality leaders and be willing to give what you have away!


Servant Leadership – Doing What’s Beneath You

We are continuing our series on “Servant Leadership”, looking at the idea of “Doing What’s Beneath You.”  Now, this topic presents an interesting tension in leadership.  The ultimate goal of leadership is to empower others.  Leaders aren’t those that get things done, but rather those that can lead others to get things done.  As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”  With that said, it is very easy to often take that idea to the point that there are certain things that “beneath you” as a leader.  Meaning, you have now achieved a certain status, and you no longer have to do certain things.  But this isn’t the approach of the Servant Leader.

You see, while servant leaders aren’t ‘slave leaders’ and simply running around doing what everyone else was empowered to do, that doesn’t mean they stand on a high and lofty pedestal looking down on all of their lowly hirelings.  You see, Servant Leadership isn’t about what you do, but about how you view what you do.  

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a leader that viewed you as simply the workforce to do everything they didn’t want to do.  Chances are good that you didn’t follow that person for long.  But on the flip side, hopefully you’ve had the privilege of following someone that you would go out of your way, even sacrifice your own time and energy, to do whatever that person needed.  What is the difference?  It’s all in how a leader views what they do and don’t do.

If you view certain things as “beneath” you, then those actually doing those things will naturally be “beneath” you.  And the moment those you’re leading are ‘beneath’ you, is the moment you’ve now stopped leading, and instead you are dictating.

Serve Those You Lead

The goal of any quality leader is to lead others to accomplish a task that the individuals of that team could not accomplish on their own.  This is the valid and practical end goal for most leaders, and rightfully so.  To do anything less would not be true leadership.

In discussing leadership, though, we can often focus too much on how to mobilize our people to accomplish the goal or task.  I believe it’s important that we lead our team in such a way that they are set-up for success, and not simply ourselves.  In order to do this, point leaders need to make it a regular habit to ask those we lead this simple question: “How can I best serve and support you?” This may seem backwards to some, but it’s actually a very healthy practice for point leaders.  It shifts the priority from simply accomplishing a task to leading people. While success with the task is important, the longevity of your team is crucial to the accomplishment of the ultimate vision.  Look for opportunities to show support  to your team and to not just be served, but to serve.  The top-down approach to leadership died with the Beatles. This is a new day and we are now living in a new paradigm of leadership.  People aren’t looking to be another ‘cog’ in the wheel.  They desire to serve a leader that is willing to serve them.  So as leaders, let’s shed our titles, pick-up a towel and serve.

How are you serving and supporting your team?  After completing a task, is your team better or is it burned?

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