Servant Leadership in the Workplace By Akosua Frempong, Ph.D.
Jesus Christ, Our Chief Example of Servant Leadership
As Christian leaders in our various workplaces, we must exhibit servant leadership. Servant leadership is a leadership style or approach that prioritizes the other. The critical element in servant leadership is service. It’s about the leader serving those with whom he works (his “subordinates”). As Robert Greenleaf, who coined the term in 1970, mentioned, “Good leaders must first become good servants.”
Jesus Christ As Our Model
When Christ volunteered to serve His disciples by washing their feet (John 13:1-17), He exemplified what it takes to be a servant leader. He showed humility. He told them to follow His example. He also said anyone who does this (serving the other) would be blessed. To be blessed as Christians, we must serve others. The following are the traits of a Servant Leader:
As seen with the example of Christ washing His disciples’ feet, servant leadership shows itself through a leader serving and meeting the needs of others, typically her subordinates. We also recall that Christ went about doing good. He healed the sick, delivered the oppressed, and provided for a multitude by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fishes. Christ also raised the dead, as in the case of Lazarus, His friend. Christ did good and was happy serving those to whom God had called Him and eventually saving us through His death. I would say His death was the ultimate sacrifice and expression of servant leadership. In today’s perspective, this supreme sacrifice could be in a leader defending his employees and doing what is fair and proper for them, regardless of the consequence resulting from that righteous stance.
Aside from meeting the needs of others, servant leadership involves empowering “followers.” Christ empowered His disciples, whether it be the 12 or the 1,000. He told the 12, for instance, to be bold. Christ prepared them for His death. He also forewarned them about how others would eventually persecute them. Today, after the outpour of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost, the Holy Spirit strengthens us. God sent Him to teach and comfort us upon Christ’s exit. Today, leaders can empower their mentees through training opportunities, words of encouragement or affirmation, and comfort during difficult times.
Servant leadership requires authenticity. Christ was and is the epitome of this. In Revelation 19: 11, the Bible describes Him as Faithful and True. More than ever, we need authentic leaders in today’s world who’ll be honest with their followers.
Context Over Rules
Within the concept of servant leadership, context affects behavior instead of rules. When Christ healed a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were upset! But Christ cared more about the man being healed and restored than rules that were to limit that salvation and restoration. So, He asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?…” (Mark 3: 1-6, ESV). As Christian leaders, we must always do what is good, will save, and bring life to, others.
Focus on Behavior
With servant leadership, the focus is on the leader’s behavior. Christ demonstrated that by doing the will of His Father. A servant leader will focus on his behavior instead of prioritizing organizational goals alone. He will focus on who he is becoming.
As Christians, we must be servant leaders. By keeping Christ as our focus, we exhibit servant leadership traits that our world desperately needs. Yes, servant leadership certainly matters in the workplace today — and yes, it will always matter!
Akosua Frempong, Ph.D., is a broadcast, digital and print journalist. She is also a speaker, an adjunct journalism professor at Regent University, Virginia, and the founder of Listening Ear Communications, which provides excellent, professional journalism services to media organizations and publications.
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