Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of funneling nearly four decades of leadership experience into 90 minutes. I shared ten things I’ve learned about leadership with ten millenials. They were Arise Worship Interns from across the world. I summarized them in a blog: Top Ten for Young Leaders. Then the requests started rolling in to unpack these top ten. So, here’s the fourth principle from the series: Leaders Cultivate a Servant Heart.
The best leaders are servants. They know that the way up is down. Great leadership is the opposite of what you tend to think. Leadership is not about position, power, prestige and supremacy. It’s all about servanthood. The way to the top is from the bottom in God’s upside-down economy. Instead of taking, we give. Instead of self-indulgence, we self-sacrifice. Instead of going to the front of the line, we go to the back. It’s the opposite of what our culture screams.
Connected most closely to servanthood, is humility. A servant leader has a heart of humility. They have the right attitude and are accessible and approachable. Popeye’s CEO, Cheryl Bachelder had a guest on her blog, Joshua Becker. Becker wrote: “Humility is the act of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive. It is the opposite of aggression, arrogance, pride, and vanity. And on the surface, it appears to empty its holder of all power. But on the contrary, it grants enormous power to its owner. Humility offers its owner complete freedom from the desire to impress, be right, or get ahead. Frustrations and losses have less impact on a humble ego and a humble person confidently receives opportunity to grow, improve, and reject society‘s labels. A humble life results in contentment, patience, forgiveness, and compassion.” Love it. These are the characteristics of great leaders. The way up is down. Learn from the greatest leader of all times: John 13:1-16 and Philippians 2:5-11.
I recently heard Rick Warren tell a story about Dan Cathy. Dan is President and CEO of the restaurant chain that his father, Truett Cathy, founded. Dan was in southern California checking on some new Chick-fil-A restaurants their company was building near Saddleback Church, where Rick is the founding pastor. These two stopped at a construction site of a new Chick-fil-A.
Here’s how Rick tells the story. “We were looking at the building. While we were there we were hungry so we went next door to, I think it was a Taco Bell. It was some other fast food in competition with Chick-fil-A. We’d been out, our hands were all sweaty and dirty and we went in the restroom and washed our hands. Then I watched Dan take out extra sheets…This is the CEO of a chain of restaurants. I watched him pull them out and I watched him hand clean the sinks of the Taco Bell bathroom we were just in. I looked at him and said, thank you for doing that Dan. He said, “Rick we teach our staff to always leave any place they are better than it was when they found it, whether it’s our place or not.” I thought nobody in that Taco Bell and nobody at Taco Bell Corporate will know that the CEO of their competition just cleaned their bathroom… for free.”
Wow! The heart of a servant. The greatest leaders model going down on their way up. The finest leaders resist an entitlement mentality. They help others become successful. They serve others. Even the competition. Even when no one is looking. And if any one does notice, they say, “My pleasure.”
P.S. For previous blog posts on the topic of servant leadership, click here.
QUESTION: What is one thing you can do this week to better demonstrate servant leadership in your setting? I’d love to know if you are willing to share it in the comment section below. Thanks