Yes, I’m about to make everyone who searches on Google about servant/leaders angry.  Therefore, I think you should probably go to another website or blog.  However, working within the mentally challenged community I’ve seen a different paradigm for leadership and servanthood.

First, I believe that certain people are born leaders.  Chrissy does not walk or speak but her nickname is “The Queen.”  That is because she has been a leader all her life.  She will never be a servant in the normal mold. She cannot perform even the smallest personal or toilet tasks for herself. She’ll never lift a chair or move a table.   However, no one who meets her would ever deny that Chrissy was born a leader.  The joke among her friends is that if she could speak, she would rule the world.  Michelle walks into the room and she owns it.  The same is true for Lloyd, Adam and Shelly.  Some of them, like Shelly, are outgoing in their personality.  Others, like Adam, are shy and retiring in their personalities.  Each one is able to lead people in a unique way.

Second, being a servant almost never makes a good or competent leader.  Carlos is an amazing servant.  He can set up a room for a worship service all by himself.  Twenty-or-so years ago, when he went to work on an enclave at a local manufacturing company, Carlos excelled.  After the state requirements had been met by the company regarding the enclave, the company fired the other five people and kept Carlos.  He has been doing the job ever since.  He is respected and loved by his fellow employees.   However, he would never have become a leader, unless he had been trained into the skills necessary for leadership.  The same is true for Joe and Terri and Eric.

All right, I know that Jesus taught that the Christian ideal of leadership must be fundamentally  different from the world.  However, the servant/leader concept seems to assume that leaders can automatically become servants and servant will miraculously ascend to leadership.  It has been my experience that this concept is flawed.

Leaders must be taught to be servants.  People in leadership position usually recognize that fact.  When I was in high school, I realized that people liked to do things when I asked.  It took me decades to understand that this was a recognition of the gift of leadership that the Lord had put into me.  I also realized in working with children and teenagers, that they worked better for me, if I modeled the behavior I wanted to teach them.  I could lecture folks for an hour and they still would not get the concept; or I could work side-by-side and get amazing results.  In this way, I learned how to use servanthood to enhance my leadership skills.

I’ve found that leaders often have a difficult time grasping this concept because they are able to get results from others by simply, asking politely.  Therefore, training is required for leaders to understand how to maximize their influence by incorporating servanthood principles. 

While teaching a leader to be a servant is difficult because it seems silly to attempt to fix something that ain’t broken,  teaching leadership is all but impossible for a true servant.  Carlos may never learn to hold his head up when he’s in front of a crowd.  But while loading chairs, he is as straight as an arrow.  Leave him alone and he will do the task single-handed and do a great job.  Put folks under him and he becomes nervous and clumsy.  Joe’s manner and tone of voice turns sharp when he puts on a leadership hat.  He doesn’t want to be bossy but he discomfort comes across that way. 

It takes a rare person to truly understand and embrace the concept of servant/leadership.  Shelley is the go-to person among her peers.  She is sought after for friendship and advice.  However, I can trust her to do any task assigned with the grace of a true leader and the poise and skill of a servant. 

Becoming a servant/leader is a great concept and a goal that Jesus commanded us to aspire.  However, there is much more involved than starting a servant/leadership class in a church or a youth group.  Unless group leaders understands the mind and heart of a servant, it would be extremely difficult for them to teach leadership to the servant.  In the same vein, teaching servanthood to a leader is a grueling task that demands years of hard repetition and stern correction.

What am I missing?  Where have I got this wrong?  Or do you agree?

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