Servant Leadership SUCKS! Really?!



Well, its true!   Sometimes it sucks to be a servant leader...and those times that suck might be just the ones that are making you stand out from the crowd of “leaders”.

Anyone, can do tasks that drone on and on and on; cleaning toilets, making copies, stapling papers etc. Some tasks in the workplace may seem mundane or of lesser value and as humans, we eventually may feel that we are above a certain level of task and that we are too important to do such a thing! But what if it isn't the task or how mundane it is that makes work suck?  What if it's your attitude toward the task makes all the difference? 

The servant leader, doesn’t let that attitude develop (or squashes it upon discovery). If you are truly living a lifestyle of servant leadership, and not just claiming the title, then you know it has just about everything to do with your attitude. So "yes," giving yourself an attitude check can help you work through what is most often considered "the suck-y work" and be a person of moral authority. 

Moral authority, according to Sipe and Frick, Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership, is one of Robert Greenleaf’s pillars of servant leadership. Their definition includes; 
A servant-leader is worthy of respect, inspires trust and confidence, and establishes quality standards for performance.  They value moral authority (sharing power) over positional authority.

I recently met a young adult man who, after graduating from college with big plans and a degree in youth ministry, ended up working in a local grocery store for 3 years. His approach with co-workers was not to evangelize to them through words, but through his actions and lifestyle. For example, he would do all the dirty work, all the time, that no one else wanted to do. Not only did he do it, he would volunteer to do it! Did he like it scrubbing toilets? No way. If there was a spill with some items that were being stocked and the managers were trying to figure out who did it, he would run over from which ever section of the store he was in and claim responsibility (though he had nothing to do with it). You might be saying, "What the heck did this guy learn in college!?" 

Eventually, his coworkers started jumping in to take turns on those nasty chores. When the manager confronted the group about a spill, those who were actually involved began to take responsibility.  He also got to know them really well. He learned about their families, their kids, and their dreams. He made it a priority to listen to them, to get to know what they liked and didn’t like, music and more. He remembered all this and continued to ask his co-workers about the ongoing events of their lives. 

After about six months of working there, one of his co-workers asked him if he was a Christian, and he told them he was. As his co-workers found out, they would jokingly make comments about him being so perfect and religious.  Individually, however, they would come up to him and say something like, “Hey, I think it’s really cool how you live your life and I really respect you!”

Because this young man exhibited the true attitude of being a servant leader, he developed moral authority. Rather than demanding respect from others because he thought he deserved it, he earned their respect by showing them how he lives the lifestyle of a leader who has made the conscious decision to serve. 

At the end of the day, it is attitude that makes all the difference in effective leadership. The attitude of servant leadership is to consider no task, no matter how menial, to be above your role.  The attitude in which you choose to do that task, is what will make it menial or not. The leader who serves chooses to not let any task be menial, but re-imagines it as a chance to serve others, to set yourself apart, and to prove that you are more invested in moral authority (sharing power) than in wielding power through an attitude of grandiosity. 

-Betsy