One of the genres I regularly read in the non-fiction department are books on leadership. We are all leaders in some sphere of influence. I also have a desire to continually become aware of resources that might be helpful to others.
Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges is the latest leadership book to be added to my shelf. The book was given to me as part of the resources for a leadership team on which I currently serve. I have to admit I did not read the book until someone else commented on how much they got out of it. (Hanging head in shame.) I had read a Ken Blanchard book before and even though he is a best selling author and business leadership guru, I wasn’t sure how it would translate into Christian leadership. If I were honest I would have to say I looked at the book with some suspicion, (i.e., business guru trying to break into the Christian leadership market).
I was very wrong, and I am very grateful to have been influenced to read this book. Blanchard and Hodges challenge to Lead Like Jesus comes out of a genuine desire to live as a Christ follower. They provide a convincing argument that leading like Jesus is the most relevant leadership style for today. I found Blanchard & Hodges description of servant leadership to be well defined. They say the journey of a servant leader starts with the heart (motive and intent). [BTW—The discussion on pride and ego are worth the price of the book. EGO is described as Edging God Out as opposed to Exalting God Only.] Then it travels through the head (belief system and perspective). To have hands of a servant leader is to be a leader who puts into practice internal skills and values (investing in and caring for followers). Finally, all of these things will translate into the servant leader exhibiting habits like Jesus (solitude, prayer, study and application of scripture, accepting and responding to God’s unconditional love, and involvement in supportive relationships).
Verdict: Recommend this book highly to anyone whether or not they are in a formal leadership position.
Seminary professor and author Elmer Towns describes a servant leader as: “one who recognizes the real secret of leadership is found in identifying the needs of others and ministering to them.” He goes on to explain, “This leader believes people will follow if their needs are being met by their leader” (Towns, 2003, 139). There’s no better example of this than the leadership of Jesus. Jesus displayed characteristics of both the servant and the leader. He taught and modeled the principle of servant leadership throughout his life and ministry.
Jesus, the Model of Servant Leadership
Even as a child Jesus modeled leadership. Scripture provides a glimpse of him at age twelve in the temple speaking to the adult leaders as he was about his Father’s business (Luke 2:47). His leadership skills are evident as he called his disciples to leave what they were doing and follow him on a three-year adventure that would change their lives, and change the world. Of course Jesus led because of his divine nature. He is leadership personified. He led by example and he led by action when he confronted things that were wrong (the money changers in the temple), or harmful (the storms on the sea).
The model of a servant is the role of Jesus that takes us by surprise. Scripture describes this role in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many,” and Philippians 2:7-8, “He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave. He humbled Himself by being obedient, even to death.” Jesus did not have title while he was on this earth. He did not build a formal organization. He did not recruit his disciples to lucrative paid positions. He went about doing good—teaching, healing, and modeling the love, grace and mercy of God the Father. Jesus modeled a downward submission. He served people because he understood their value.
A servant leader is willing to assume the risk of his own well being for the good of those he leads. He certainly must associate himself with his followers to the point that any risk he is asking of them he is willing to accept for himself. Jesus required his disciples to stand up and make a public profession of their faith in God even if serving God resulted in the loss of their physical life. Christ in his willingness to go to the cross, in addition to fulfilling his mission on earth as the Savior, was also showing he was willing to take the same risk of public testimony that he required of his disciples.
I have to ask myself what risks am I willing to take in order to lead with the heart of a servant? What about you?
©Brenda Pace, 2010