Who Introduced the Concept of Servant Leadership? (Y1.T2.D46)
According to the Center for Servant Leadership:
While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said: “The servant-leader is servant first. . . "
Scrolling down a little further on the page, this organization states:
The servant leadership philosophy and practices have been expressed in many ways and applied in many contexts. Some of the most well-known advocates of servant leadership include Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Peter Senge, M. Scott Peck, Margaret Wheatley, Ann McGee-Cooper & Duane Trammell, Larry Spears, and Kent Keith.
The idea of servant leadership is still sought across companies today. During my tenure as a corporate trainer, we added quotes to our powerpoints like:
Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. ― Sir Richard Branson
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. ― Nelson Mandela
However, what is often left unsaid is who actually introduced servant leadership to the world. It wasn't Greenleaf or Mandela.
It was Jesus.
Throughout his ministry, he worked alongside those he taught. He didn't summon them from an office on the top floor or delegate anything he wasn't willing to do himself. And in today's passages, he literally takes on the role of servant by washing the feet of those who followed him.
Jesus taught and exhibited his number-one requirement of those who would lead in his kingdom which was love through service. Sadly Christianity is swamped with leaders looking for humble servants rather than looking to humbly serve.
Whenever we are blessed to lead others, we should heed the instruction of 1 Peter 5:1–3:
Therefore I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and who will also share in the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, not for dishonest gain, but willingly; not as lording it over those entrusted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock.
The best and first servant leader was Jesus, and we should follow his lead.
Show Me a Better Way
8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” (Luke 22:8)
18b and tell him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’” (Matthew 26:18b)
1 Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and was going to God, 4 arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments. He took a towel and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
7 Jesus answered him, “You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.”
8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus said to him, “Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on, and sat down again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord.’ You say so correctly, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you. 16 Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:1–17)
1 Therefore I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and who will also share in the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, not for dishonest gain, but willingly; 3 not as lording it over those entrusted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock. 4 When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the crown of glory that doesn’t fade away.
5 Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your worries on him, because he cares for you.
8 Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:1-11)
You are the light of the world. Because of You, I do not walk in darkness (John 8:12). Thank You for choosing me and appointing me to go, bear fruit, and love others (John 15:16–17). I choose to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow You (Matthew 16:24). Help me to better serve those you've called me to lead.
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