It certainly isn’t a spoiler alert to announce that leaders come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each has their own look. The narcissistic leader is suited up seeking a platform or a press conference. The command-and-control leader can be found shouting out directives about which hill to take…now. The micro-management leader is looking over your shoulder waiting for the chance to correct or redirect. You get the picture.
When I think about the people in my life who have demonstrated servant leadership, I have found four consistent commonalities:
- Servant leaders don’t focus on personal success. They think differently. Act differently. This rare breed actually gets energized by investing in others and seeing (and celebrating) their success. They’re usually first in line to dish out a fist pump to signal their affirmation for a job well done.
- Servant leaders don’t worry about getting the credit.They seem to be always pointing fingers—at others. They aggressively and lavishly call out the contributions of the team. Knowing that the mission is being advanced is the only credit a servant leader is after.
- Servant leaders don’t seek the stage. If they are needed on the field to call the plays, they’re there. But if they’re needed in the press box silently analyzing the action down below and sending observations via the head phones, that’s fine too. As long as the team is winning, they are at home (and at peace) behind the scenes, off camera.
- Servant leaders don’t use people. They don’t see people as means to an end. Hired hands. They see others as fellow image-bearers. Works of art. They look not only to appreciate others, but more importantly, to set a seat at the table for the uniqueness of their gifts and strengths and passions. They believe in the wisdom of many counselors.
So what do servant leaders look like? At the end of the day, I guess you could say they look a whole lot like the picture the Apostle Paul painted 2000 years ago when he laid it on the line: Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
I’m sure you would agree that our world needs a few more of this kind of leader.