Servant Leadership from a Biblical Perspective
Servant leadership has been defined in different ways by various people. However, it simply refers to the act of serving others. This type of leadership has been embraced to a large extent by those who believe in the text of the Bible. Such people argue that the word leadership alone is not sufficient to portray the strong attributes of a leader. Instead, they propose that a prefix “servant” should be added to the word leadership. In this manner, we are able to differentiate between servant leadership and mere leadership. A person can be said to be a servant leader if he has a great urge to serve others. This notion arises from the belief that Jesus Christ, the son of God, did not come to the world to perform a master’s function, but rather a servant’s function. In fact, proponents of the biblical approach to leadership claim that we should learn and practice leading like Jesus.
Biblical Analysis of the Key Ideas Associated with Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership Perspective
In servant leadership, Greenleaf’s approach acts as a platform through which Christian leaders discover the leadership attributes that were associated with Jesus. This approach reveals that biblical leadership needs to emerge from our hearts. As such, it imposes a condition precedent for a person to manage his/her being a servant leader. This condition states that a person will only achieve the necessary skills if he/she seeks for God’s direction and wisdom.
Besides, serving others is another fundamental attribute of Greenleaf’s approach to servant leadership. In his works, Greenleaf believes that we can only produce a good society if we purpose to serve other people, both able and less able. In biblical terminology, the terms this as servitude to others. A point of departure exists between servant leadership and leadership (Matthew 20:28). This can be analyzed from the dimension that servant leaders, unlike other leaders, seek to serve others rather than being served. Servant leaders are motivated by the claim that Jesus gave away his life to save mankind (Matthew 20:28). Furthermore, Greenleaf asserts that a person cannot be termed as a servant leader if he or she does not practice openness. Leaders, he says, should learn to be honest in their teachings and actions and they must also learn to “withdraw and return”.
Another proposition of Greenleaf’s approach to biblical leadership is that a major function of servant leadership is to build up discipline. In this manner, he mentions that servant leaders should teach people in the same manner as Jesus taught his disciples by converting them from fishers of fish to fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). As mentioned earlier, a servant leader must be in a position to withdraw and return (Psalms 1:1-3). Withdrawal is necessary when there is imminent danger of compromising the spiritual relationship with God (Osei-Mensah, 1990).
A Biblical Foundation for Servant Leadership
A biblical foundation can be termed as a condition precedent to becoming a servant leader. The rationale behind a biblical foundation is that becoming a servant leader is a transformational journey, which starts at the personal leadership level, and, through a series of stages, it matures at a servant leader level. Blanchard and Hodges (2005) assert that before we can manage to be servant leaders, we must have discovered the Lord’s mind so that he can instruct us (1 Cor. 2:16). By summarizing the desired attributes of a servant leader in their transformational leadership model, they argue that servant leadership starts from personal leadership, then turns to One-on-One leadership, further to family leadership, and finally to community leadership. Furthermore, the model views servant leadership as a unique type of leadership that requires human dignity, personal responsibility, good character, good usage of power, stewardship and justice (Southern Baptist Convention, 1992).
In conclusion, servant leadership is different in many ways contrary to mere leadership. Comparatively, it is the most difficult leadership skill to attain and requires a person to have a strong religious background. In fact, it is in many cases regarded as a call from God to serve him. Unlike the ordinary leadership, which is capitalist in nature, servant leadership entails serving others with a clean heart. This form of leadership can be relied on to a great extent to promote good moral models in the society. This is essential in creating a God-fearing society. Relying on the ordinary leadership alone may yield a rotten society which lacks in molars. However, pastorship should not be confused with servant leadership. To be a servant leader, one is not obliged to be a pastor. Rather, he only needs to dedicate his life to serving others, just like Jesus did.