Servant Leadership

Row American Flags Half Mast Washington DC USA

Here we go again.

Another day.

Another crisis.

Another call for leadership.

Another round of half-mast flags…

Another set of news-bite wags…

A fresh supply of new #hashtags…

And another call for leadership.

More outrage at this

More outrage at your outrage at that,

Another mad rush of the gun shop owners to the bank…

And another call for leadership.

What do we mourn when we bemoan the lack of leadership?

Do we really know what are we calling for? [click to continue…]

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(Or Ministry…  Or Job…  Or Spiritual Gifts…  Or Life Mission… Or…)

Servant Leader

Years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and preaching in two different evangelistic crusades.  One day our hosts took us to a beautiful national park – a very busy place, with lots of booths, a walkway up a small mountain, and a Buddhist temple.

As we were walking down the mountain and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the wide walkway, a young Korean woman approached me and asked if I was from America.

“Could I talk to you as we walk?” she asked.  “I’m learning to speak English and it helps to practice with someone who speaks it.”

She spoke English pretty well, albeit with a beautiful Asian accent.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked.

If you travel overseas or have any experience speaking to an ESL (English as a second language), it’s pretty common to try to simplify your vocabulary in order to be understood.  I was a pastor at the time, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t know what a pastor was. So I chose a different word…

“I am a minister,” I said.

Her whole countenance changed.  Suddenly she was in the presence of someone important!

“Oh!  You are a government official?”

Yes, I know I shouldn’t have… but I literally laughed out loud.  Then I tried to explain to her that in the U.S. we use the English word “minister” in a different way.

I think she was disappointed.  Anyway… [click to continue…]

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A Gown in the Night

by Andy Wood on November 12, 2014

in LV Stories

KemmererJCPenney

Jim was hardly the first businessman to ever try to operate by the Golden Rule.  But he was one of the few who actually put the name Golden Rule over the dry goods store he co-owned and ran in Kimmerer, Wyoming.  So I suppose when your store name means, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and when you choose to live with your wife across the street from the Golden Rule store that you run, it would probably be a good idea to practice what you preach.

Fortunately, the founders of the Golden Rule chain had found in young Jim a work ethic and care for people that would make him an excellent business partner and store manager.

Simply put, Jim was a servant leader before people ever talked of such things.

All that was put to the test one night when Jim and his wife were awakened by a loud banging at his door.  There stood a Chinese man who spoke no English, gesturing with great agitation, beckoning Jim to open his store.

What would you do?  Point to a clock and ask the man to come back when the big hand got there and the little hand got there?  Close the door and go back to bed?  Call the police? [click to continue…]

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smiley_bubbly_day_04Can’t believe it’s been a whole year, but I got to see Walter again yesterday. We took a little ride and shared a little fellowship. It was good to catch up.

Two years ago Walter was going through a severe depression.  He had been through a series of deep losses, including his job and health benefits. That’s tough enough for anybody, but at Walter’s age new careers don’t just grow on trees.  I really don’t know how old Walter is, but I’m 54 and he’s a good five-to-ten past that. I have to say, though, he makes it look good.

There is none of that suicidal darkness remaining that so gripped this man just a couple of years ago. And make no mistake about it – this was no bootstrap operation. Walter is joyfully explicit about Who gets the credit for raising him out of the pit. His life radiates with gratitude and joy, even when he’s all business.

Walter is especially excited because he and his wife are meeting their children and grandchildren in a few weeks. [click to continue…]

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Logo of Groupon

You may or may not know the name Andrew Mason.  But I’ll bet you’ve heard of Groupon, the famous deal-of-the-day website where Mason was CEO.

These have been hard times for the company – nobody is denying that, and if you’re interested in the business and numbers side of it you can find it here.

What interests me is the leadership Mason showed in leaving.  In an email he sent to all his employees then posted publicly (“it will leak out anyway”), Mason showed some class, humor, honesty, and most of all accountability.  Take a look: [click to continue…]

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So somebody’s in charge, but nobody’s actually leading.  There’s a boss, but no vision caster.  You have an authority figure, but no one is harnessing the best efforts of the people in your organization.

In short, you have a leadership vacuum.  What do you do?

Quit?

Lead a mutiny?

Facebook your friends and tell them what a loser you have as a leader?

Try to outmaneuver others politically and manipulate your way to power?

Sit and suffer and hope for the best, while your peers keep howling for leadership?

How about asking God to smite somebody while you’re at it?

These are all approaches used to face situations that have become almost cliché they’re so common:  What do I do when my leader isn’t leading?  Organizations everywhere – businesses, churches, nonprofits, and schools are decrying a lack of leadership.  Somebody needs to make the tough decisions, cast the difficult vision, harness the amazing abilities and energy of the people!  And we seem to be convinced that the answer to the search lies somewhere else.

Maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe the search for someone to step into the leadership ends with you.  Maybe you’re the leader the organization needs, even if people in executive suites don’t necessarily see it yet.  Maybe you’re the catalyst for change, even if you don’t have the sanctioned power to make it so. [click to continue…]

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Know why some people want to be leaders?  Because they want the power that comes with it.

Now I’m sure that if you’re a regular reader here, that would in no way describe you.  But haven’t you ever known somebody who was super-nice, very inspirational or whatever… then they got the promotion or the big office and turned into Little Caesar?

Or did you ever know somebody who was an awesome “number two” – a great assistant whatever… but when they finally got their chance to pull the organization’s strings royally flopped because they still acted like a “number two?”

“Power corrupts,” Lord Acton observed.  “And absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  But here’s the rub:  all real leaders (and others in leadership positions) have power.  Does that mean we’re doomed to lives filled with moral cavities?

Yes.  Unless you do something about it.

Oh… I have good news… You can do something about it. [click to continue…]

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Friday I was on my way to Virginia to make a presentation at a Servant Leadership conference.  So I guess it was safe to say I had leading-by-serving on the brain…

I walk up to the ticket counter of the Dallas-based airline that will remain nameless (though I will point out that they don’t advertise that bags fly free).

Next to me is a fellow traveler who was trying to check her two bags.  Here is the gist of the conversation… [click to continue…]

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Okay I need your feedback.  Now.  Humor me, it’s easy.  Scroll down to the comments section. Or click on the article title if you’re reading this on the feed or email, then scroll down to comments.

When you get there, give me your first response to this question.

Think of someone who is in a leadership position over your life – work, church, nonprofit, political.  How does that leader most often make you feel?

One word answers are fine.  Diatribes are fine.  Rants are fine.  Gushing is allowed, too.  First names are OK.  Give your answer,  then click “submit” and come back to the top.

I’ll wait right here.

(This is me waiting.)

Okay.  Back?  Let’s talk. [click to continue…]

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Ask most any Christ follower who or what the ultimate model for leadership is, and they’ll point you to Jesus Christ. 

Ask that same Christ follower what the ultimate standard for leadership is, and they’ll probably land on servanthood.  “Jesus was a servant leader,” they will opine, “and He called His followers to lead by serving.”

Okay, so far, so good. One more question.

Ask that same believer to name somebody from among the most successful ministries or institutions who actually practices servant leadership across the board…

…and watch their pupils widen.  The headlights just caught the deer.

In spite of all our claims to servant leadership, the honest truth is that leadership on a grand scale means knowing what to do with opportunity, influence, power, and public image.  Can a leader have all of that and remain a servant?

Yes. 

But will he?

Camels and the eye of the needle come to mind. [click to continue…]

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