I am convinced, after 58 years of observing leaders of all types, that the key to a thriving Church, a thriving society, a thriving community, a thriving organization and most importantly a thriving family is to have leaders that are Servant Leaders.
Today, we can observe many different types of leaders in the world and through this observation, we can see few are servant leaders. The false ideology of “self” has pushed service of others out of the forefront and into the shadows. In our current times, the act of SERVING is often derided and ridiculed when it should be lauded and rewarded. The result of a self serving ideology is evident in the collapse of the family unit and a society that rejects the value of life at every turn.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to service in the form of Human Solidarity by stating:
1939 The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of “friendship” or “social charity,” is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.45
An error, “today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.”46
If we are to have a well-functioning society, that is working toward the common good of all its inhabitants, service of others, as an act of charity, is essential.
Each of us have our gifts and talents, given to us by God, these gifts and talents should guide us as to our duties and responsibilities in our community and toward each other.
St. Peter exhorts us in (1 Peter 4:10) by stating:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
In order to know where to start, look to our “state” in life and use our gifts and talents for the betterment of those around us. The first century Greek philosopher, EPICTETUS, also stated it very well in this quote:
Our duties naturally emerge from such fundamental relations as our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, our state or nation. Make it your regular habit to consider your roles—parent, child, neighbor, citizen, leader—and the natural duties that arise from them. Once you know who you are and to whom you are linked, you will know what to do.
Unfortunately, although Servant Leadership is the highest form of leading others, it is often not well received by all. Jesus after all, is the greatest servant leader of all time and he was crucified. Embarking on a path of Servant Leadership will require us to have a prayer life that leads us into an intimate relationship with our Savior and to die to self.
Often Servant Leaders are those people that go unnoticed. They could be your grandmother or grandfather, shown in their love and wisdom, a mother that has given up a career to serve her family, a father that lays his life down for his family each day, a teacher that has changed the lives of their students for the better, a priest or religious sister who through their truthful love brings others to Christ or a mentor that goes unnoticed.
These Servant Leaders, in my observation, share most of the same attributes. What are these attributes that we will need to exhibit if we are to become Servant Leaders?
1) An internalized passion for serving others. This passion springs from belief in this mission of service by understanding that it has moral and intrinsic value beyond what we may see in this lifetime.
2) Humility – Humility is not self-deprivating, it recognizes personal gifts and acknowledges personal flaws as a gift from God. Humility allows us to see that our talents are to be used to serve others and build the kingdom of God. Humility, true humility, understands that each person we are serving is the most important person in the world at that moment.
3) Empathy – Empathy seeks to understand the people they lead and works toward the Common Good. They exemplify empathy by working for such things as improving the standard of living in our community, a true and right justice, and lifting of the poor or needy.
4) Servant Leaders have a great love for people. They recognize the human dignity of each person that meet. They do not see people as a “resource” to be used. They place people above the need for money and material goods.
5) Driven by their humility, they are open to the ideas of others.
6) They seek to influence others toward accomplishing the common good without having to demand action.
7) Listens more than they speak. God gave us two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we speak.
8) Mentor – They look to help others grow by building on and encouraging the use of their God given talents while being constructive not destructive.
9) They lead based on an understanding that they have a symbiotic relationship with the community they serve.
10) Is most often seen as a leader without having to seek the leadership role.
11) Justice – has a strong sense of moral judgment and always seeks to act justly according to a rightly formed conscience based on natural law designed by God.
12) Lastly, they take the time to self-reflect and pray every day without fail. Formal, vocal and mental prayer.
Here lies the challenge for each of us.
We have a choice: To Lead or Not to Lead!
• Each of us , past and present, have had an opportunity to lead by serving others. How will you serve?
• Lead in service of others in small ways first, one step at a time.
• When you lay your head down for the last time how do you want your family, co-workers and community to remember you?
• When you face Christ in judgement will he say? “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,