Servant Leadership: thinking “Others First.”

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So last week I wrote about 6 major lessons I’ve learned about true leadership. You can read that here. One of the major lessons I’ve learned is that, in order to lead well, you need to adopt an “others first” mentality. So today I want to flesh out what an “Others First” mentality of leadership looks like.

It all starts here… Philippians 2:3-5:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

These three verses hold the key for what it means to be a servant leader and live OTHERS FIRST.

  • HUMBLE YOURSELF

The key to great leadership is humility. I love how C.J. Mahaney defines humility in his book, Humility: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” Humility isn’t self-defeat… but it can present itself as self-deprecation. Leaders who don’t take themselves too seriously but look at themselves with honest eyes begin to lead from a sense of humility. Jim Collins, Author of the book Good to Great told of 5 organizations who thrived and why they did so. One of the first observations he made was that in each of these companies, the leader consistently pointed out how others made the difference and never took credit for themselves. Humility is the hallmark of all truly great leaders. James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

  • ELEVATE OTHERS

We have been in the middle of a massive reorganization of our Next Gen ministry world at our church. One of the main points we have been trying to hammer home is the reality of an organizational chart that leads from the bottom up, not the top down. If you are going to lead from the bottom up out of true servant leadership, then elevating others is a MUST. We say that first, you need to “rush to the bottom of the chart” (humility) and then you must begin to put people in positions before they are “ready” and coach them to success. Someone took a flyer on all of us as leaders before we were “ready”… learn to do that for others.

  • LISTEN TO OTHERS

If we are going to lead well, we must learn to listen well. Leaders are learners… and the best leaders know how to actively listen to others. We say a lot around our team that “the main leader’s ideas CANNOT ALWAYS be the best ideas.” We can’t always go with our own ideas… it kills creativity and teamwork. You’ll end up having a visionary leader and a bunch of yes-men and a lid on where you can go. Actively listening to others will lead you to better leadership. Great teams = great ideas.

  • CONSIDER OTHERS

As leaders we often find ourselves making decisions for our teams and organizations. The difference between a servant leader and a top-down leader is who benefits from those decisions. A servant leader asks the question, “How will this benefit our organization and those I lead and serve?” A top down leader asks, “How will this benefit me?”

  • EQUIP OTHERS

A servant leader looks to not only to build a team, but to train them. Around our church, and especially in our department, we say that we not only want to lead and equip others to DO.. tasks… but we want to equip them to LEAD PEOPLE. Servant leaders are in the people development line of business.

  • SERVE OTHERS

All of these things actually play into the idea that servant leaders look to SERVE OTHERS. I tell my leaders to “be more concerned about the success of those you are leading and serving than your own success.” This is how your leadership should be evaluated. Your leadership should not be evaluated solely on what you got done… but on how well you served those you lead.

  • BELIEVE IN OTHERS

And finally, you must believe in those you lead. It’s one thing to try to empower them to lead and equip them to lead… but if they don’t know that you believe in them, they won’t put it the hard work it takes to succeed. When we believe in others… we build the necessary trust it takes to lead well.

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