Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Monday, February 27, 2012

Servant Followership

By Gary Roberts
Robertson School of Government

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. Mark 10: 42-44, NLT

As students studying for an MA in Government at Regent University, we are striving to develop and enhance our leadership skills. From a Christian worldview perspective, when we seek leadership skills first, we are placing the proverbial “cart before the horse.” Jesus set the standards for both leadership and followership by his complete obedience to the will of the Father. Jesus spent the first 30 years of his live obeying his parents, being an excellent carpenter, and serving the Lord in a humble fashion. Jesus was an effective leader because He practiced servanthood first! From conception to ascension, Jesus’ every word and action promoted the mission that the Father anointed Jesus to complete, the redemptive work of the cross.

Thus, we cannot learn to lead like Jesus until we learn to serve like Jesus. An excellent book on this subject is Jesus on Leadership by C. Gene Wilkes (1998, Tyndale Publishers). Christian servant leadership is birthed by servant followership in which employees develop the essential character traits (the fruits of the spirit) that enable leaders to use their gifts and skills in a humble, responsible, mature and unselfish manner. Servant followership entails such key attributes as enduring trials and tribulations patiently, learning from mistakes, teachability, obedience to authority, accepting responsibility for solving problems, exercising initiative, and helping coworkers and clients even when inconvenient or contrary to personal interests. Servant followers understand their strengths and weaknesses and select jobs based upon their gifting and passions thereby reducing stress on themselves and others.

Servant followership entails committing every aspect of our work to Godly excellence irrespective of the obstacles and situation (working for God, not man). Even when we work for unjust earthly masters, God is pleased when we endure suffering for righteous conduct. God is the only performance evaluator that matters. The Lord rewards those who pursue and practice Godly excellence and integrity at work with present and future spiritual and temporal blessings, and is the instrument for judgment and accountability for our earthly employers (vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord). These ideal standards of conduct entails a life long progressive sanctification of dying to the self that are never fully realized until we are face to face with the Lord. It is a high and lofty standard, in essence, another element of working out our salvation with fear and trembling daily. When we practice servant followership, we become that candle in the dark shining the light, hope and love of Christ into the dark recesses of our workplaces. I have listed below some of the key attributes of servant followership. Pray every day for God’s strength to serve with humility and obey the Gospel.

Twenty-five Key Attributes of Servant Followers

1. Obey the first ten commandants, to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Our adherence to these principles is the foundation for a personal relationship with Jesus and a necessary precondition for placing Jesus at the center of our lives. This entails the purposeful and enthusiastic adherence to Christian Spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading the scriptures, Christian fellowship) that enable us to develop and manifest the necessary character traits for workplace servanthood (love, humility, forgiveness, patience, perseverance, etc.)

2. The practice of 360-degree forgiveness (self, God, and others).

3. Serve just and unjust masters with excellence as modeled by David with Saul.

4. Asserting leadership when the situation warrants our intervention

5. The healthy pursuit of excellence (realistic standards of performance, accepting the inevitability of mistakes and embracing the value of trial and error in the learning process)

6. Practice initiative and creativity: Take responsibility for solving performance problems and exert the required effort (working beyond the job description and normal work requirements) when necessary.

7. Reliable and conscientious work performance in all situations

8. Honor your employer by avoiding a critical or cynical spirit by providing honest and constructive feedback in appropriate settings

9. Pray for your leaders, subordinates, peers, and customers

10. Practice gratitude for past, present and future blessings

11. Commit to the success of your supervisor and co-workers

12. Take joy in the success of others while being sorrowful over failures, even the “tough love” and “sandpaper” people that we dislike or who are at enmity with us.

13. Do not compare oneself to others. The goal is to learn from others, not to become someone else.

14. Humility: recognize our limits and be teachable, and seek out corrective feedback

15. Truth telling, provide honest feedback (voice) to protect the integrity of mission achievement, protect interests of other key stakeholders, and love your boss by providing input to avoid mistakes

16. Practice of personal transparency on weaknesses

17. Reject the temptation to externalize blame for problems and assume personal responsibility for creating and solving them

18. Be patient and faithful in trials and tribulations and communicate hope and optimism while avoiding complaining, grumbling and fault finding. Be willing to “pay your dues” and wait patiently for the Lord to promote and honor you.

19. Learn to live in the present to promote patience and perseverance

20. Unconditional altruism: help fellow employees in need (mentor and coach new employees, support and assist coworkers) even when inconvenienced or disadvantaged

21. Practice courtesy, tact and politeness to all

22. Practice active listening in which we listen with the heart as well as the mind. Listen more than we speak.

23. Supporting coworkers through encouragement and holding them accountable (tough love)

24. When in a position of bargaining strength relative to your employer, do not make excessive or unreasonable demands that take advantage of an employer’s vulnerable situation

25. Be uncompromisingly conscientious and honest in using organizational resources (money, time, equipment, supplies, etc.)

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