I heard a wonderful and thought-provoking presentation a few days ago from Crawford Loritts. He was talking about leadership, so, of course, I was interested. Once he began, I was even more interested because he was talking about servant leadership!
He shared an observation I agree with but had never really considered. The best servant leaders see servanthood as their identity not as a strategy. Robert Greenleaf wrote about this idea decades ago. He said the best leaders are servants first. Servant is not a role we play but rather a reflection of who we are or are becoming.
What does servanthood as identity look like? It’s really a heart issue. My motivation and yours begins with a question: Why do we serve? If you haven’t thought about it, it’s a good question to consider. Here are a few others…
Do I serve to give or to gain? Crawford said:
“If we serve with an expectation of return, we’re not serving, we’re investing.”
Am I truly motivated when I help others win? How excited are you when the men and women you serve excel? How about when their career surpasses yours? Consider setting a goal to see how many of your protégés can exceed your level of influence and impact.
If servanthood as identity sounds intriguing, you may be wondering how to cultivate this lifestyle. Here are three ideas to consider.
Look for opportunities to serve… daily. My experience is the more you serve the more it becomes part of who you are. Don’t try to be strategic with every act of service – just serve. There will be ample opportunities to serve strategically in your future. Serve often to soften your heart.
Serve those who have little to offer in return. If we do this consistently, it can offset the investment mentality mentioned earlier. The young, the old, the helpless, the homeless, the under-resourced, the sick and disabled – serve them. I’ve learned a lot about the power of this idea from my youngest son, David. He has cerebral palsy. Serving him has made me a better person and leader; he has changed my heart.
Try hidden acts of service. Find people or organizations you can serve anonymously. This may be through an investment of time, financial resources, or random acts of kindness. When’s the last time you gave without ANY recognition? It can be a good discipline to strengthen your servant spirit.
My experience is servanthood as an identity is not a destination – it is the quintessential life-long journey. If you or I ever think we’ve arrived, we’re wrong. However, it is in the pursuit that the ideal can become more and more of a reality. I’m thankful to be on the journey with each of you.
Thanks, Crawford. I believe more firmly than ever, Great Leaders Serve!
What have you done to strengthen your identity as servant?