What Servant-Leadership Involves

Let's continue with our series on servant-leadership, this time focusing on what servant-leadership is and the disciplines it requires.  What we don't need is more of the kind of leadership that we have had, much of it wrapped and explained in biblical terms.  I heard one woman in leadership teach recently that her "ministry" is similar to Jesus when He went into the Temple and chased everyone out.  She was simply trying to justify her bad leadership behavior as any of us are apt to do and she used the Bible to do so.

Servant-leadership isn't just an improved version of the leadership we already have in much of the church and business.  It is a whole new genre and requires a different set of skills and thinking.  It is not simply leaders who serve, nor is it servants who happen to attain to higher levels of leadership.  It is leaders who know how to lead while putting the highest priority interests of others ahead of their own.  It is a leadership that heals and doesn't wound, leaders who know how to direct and guide others without manipulation or control.  Robert Greenleaf stated that the test of leadership is that others follow voluntarily.

Author Larry Spears wrote:

Leadership is an influence process in which you try to help people accomplish goals.  All good leadership starts with a visionary role.  This involves not only goal setting but also establishing a clear picture of perfection—what the operation would look like when it was running effectively.  In other words, leadership starts with a sense of direction.  In the book I coauthored with John Carlos and Alan Randolph, Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute,
 we said, “A river without banks is a large puddle.”  The bank permits the river to flow; they give direction to the river.  Leadership is all about going somewhere; it’s not about wandering around aimlessly. Even Alice in Wonderland learned that concept when she came to a fork in the road and asked the Cheshire cat which road she should take.  He replied by asking her, “Where are you going?”  She essentially said, “I don’t know.”  His response was quick:  “Then it doesn’t matter what road you take.”  If you aren’t sure where you are going, your leadership won’t really matter, either.

Yet just because leaders have a vision doesn't mean they (he or she) are justified in doing whatever it takes to get people to follow.  This is usually where the breakdown occurs, especially when someone has "heard from God."  When they have, and I believe many leaders have, they then feel that the ends justify the means, that they can use ungodly leadership tactics to obtain godly objectives.

There are two skills critical to servant-leadership and they both require patience and practice. The first is listening, not just politely paying attention, but working hard to hear and understand what someone else is saying.  Robert Greenleaf wrote, "Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, are essential to the growth of the servant leader. . . . The most successful servant-leaders are those who have become skilled empathetic listeners." 

Stephen Covey wrote:

"Most people [and leaders] do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. . . . The essence of empathetic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually." 

When is the last time you encountered a good listener?   Would others say that you are a skilled, empathetic listener?

The second skill is persuasion, about which Greenleaf wrote: 

Persuasion involves arriving at a feeling of rightness about a belief or action through one’s own intuitive sense.  One takes an intuitive step, from the closest approximation to certainty that can be reached by conscious logic (which is sometimes not very close) to the state in which one may say with conviction, “This is where I stand!”  The act of persuasion, thus defined, would help order logic and favor the intuitive step. But the person being persuaded must take that intuitive step alone, untrammeled by coercive or manipulative stratagems of any kind.  Persuasion, on a critical issue, is a difficult, time-consuming process.  It demands one of the most exacting of human skills."

In other words, leaders must give followers room to ascertain for themselves the rightness of the leader's path.  There can be no manipulation, but there can and should be a lot of dialogue where active and effective listening is involved.  And that goes for prophetic leaders who are convinced that they have heard from God.  (This dialogue, which slows the process down, is a safeguard against the tendency to hear God but to hear Him in part, or to mix in a whole lot of misunderstanding with what the leader has accurately understood.)

Greenleaf also wrote this warning about persuasion and leadership:

Because they are recognized as being better than most at leading, showing the way, they [leaders] are apt to be highly intuitive.  Thus leaders themselves, in their conscious rationalities, may not fully understand why they choose a given path.  Yet our culture requires that leaders produce plausible, convincing explanations for the directions they take.  Once in a while, they can simply say, “I have a hunch that this is what we ought to do.”  However, most of the time, rational justifications are demanded, and part of the successful leader’s skill is inventing these rationalizations.  They are necessary, but they are also useful because they permit, after the fact, the test of conscious logic that “makes sense” to both leaders and follower.  But the understanding by the follower, if he or she is not to be manipulated, is not necessarily contained in this rationalization that makes sense.  Because we live in a world that pretends a higher validity to conscious rational thinking in human affairs than is warranted by the facts of our existence, and because many sensitive people “know” this, manipulation hangs as a cloud over the relationship between leader and led almost everywhere.

Because this manipulation does hang like a cloud, leaders must take active steps to disarm it or else the coercion will take over naturally.  This is why we cannot just have an improved, kinder, gentler version of the leadership we know.  We need a whole new style and servant-leadership, in my humble estimation, is it.

As you can tell, anyone serious about servant-leadership must study Robert Greenleaf, the father of the modern servant-leadership message.  When I read Greenleaf years ago, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and took my wind away -- it was that powerful.  Nothing has changed since that first reading.  I still study his material and say, "This is what the Church needs.  This is what business needs. This is what society needs." 

Do you agree?  If so, what are you willing to do to see servant-leadership come to the forefront of your own leadership style and philosophy? 

What Servant-Leadership Is Not

I usually don't define something by what it isn't, but in the case of servant-leadership, I (and others) find it necessary to do just that.  Let's use the Apostle Paul as our focus so that I can give some examples of the points I am making. 

1.  Servant-Leadership is not being polite.  It isn't holding doors open for everyone, or picking up the tab at a restaurant.  While a leader should be willing to set up chairs if that's what is needed at the moment, that act in and of itself does not make one a servant leader. I don't think Paul was an easy man to get along with.  I think he was focused and cordial if you were on his side, but if one got crossways with him, I think that person heard from Paul. 

2.  Servant-Leadership is not "soft."  Servant-leaders don't sit still when things go wrong. They don't sit in endless meetings and listen to everyone's opinion about this or that.  I consider myself an aspiring servant-leader, yet I would release an unproductive or unhappy employee in a New York minute if that is what was best for them and/or the organization for which I worked.  Paul got in Peter's face and confronted Peter's hypocrisy as reported in Galatians 2.  He vehemently opposed putting John Mark back on the team in Acts 15 and that decision cost him his relationship with Barnabas, who was John Mark's cousin. 

3.  Servant-Leadership is not indecisive.  Servant-leaders listen and then they make decisions, when possible, in a group or team setting. If there is no group setting, then they make the decision based on what is best for the organization and the people it serves.  Paul opposed anyone or any doctrine that was not in the best interests of his "people," which in Christ were the Gentiles.

4. Servant leadership is not a little service and and a lot leadership (or vice versa).  This is why I am careful to hyphenate this concept, for it isn't either/or. It's not that one sometimes leads and sometimes serves, trying to discern which is needed when.  Paul always led when he went out, but he had no hierarchy, title, or organization. He told us in Thessalonians that he was not only like a father (" For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children" - 1 Thessalonians 2:11) but also a mother (I wonder what all those who want to be the "father" in the house of God will do with this verse?): "As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children" (1 Thessalonians 2:6-7).  This summarizes the spirit of a servant-leader.  They are both father and mother, strong and nurturing, decisive and compassionate, strong and merciful.

So what then is servant-leadership?  Robert Greenleaf, usually credited with sparking the modern servant-leadership movement, defined it as serving others' highest priority needs.  I define it as putting my experience, gifts and time at the disposal of others to help fulfill Ephesians 4:12-13:  "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." 

This does not mean that servant-leaders can only function in a church setting, nor does it indicate that servant-leaders can only serve and lead those who are in churches.  We need servant-leaders at every level of society who use the power and wisdom of experienced and skillful leaders to build up and empower others in every walk of life.

Leaders have power and servant-leaders give as much of that power away to others to empower them to fulfill their purpose.  A few years ago, I had a 20-year-old  leader from an urban ministry come to me in a retreat where I was facilitating.  She said that she felt that she was supposed to take her discipleship group to Africa and would I help.  I immediately said, "Yes!"  She left the ministry before we could go, but if she would have gone, I was at her disposal to serve her to see that her objective was met.  It did not matter how old I was or how many degrees she did not have.  The issue was servant-leadership.  I would serve her by leading her to Africa.

I want to write next on the characteristics of a servant-leader, although we have touched on some of the traits in the first three articles.  If we are going to see a reformation in the church or society, if we want to see revival take place spiritually or culturally, then we must grasp and implement the concepts connected with servant-leadership, or else we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  If we do what we have always done, then we will get what we always have. 

Matthew 20 and Servant-Leadership

My friend Bill mentioned Matthew 20 in his comment to yesterday's post and ironically I reached Matthew 20 this morning in my weekly Bible studies. I love it when the plan comes together! 

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).

Here was what I wrote about one of those those verses:

v. 27 – Jesus put Himself forward as a model for leadership.  He did not come seeking power and position – we are back at Philippians 2 once again – but to do the will of the Father.  Let’s look at Philippians 2 one more time to see what attitude you and I should have as leaders:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

What steps can you take to be like the leader that Jesus was and is, the kind of leader that He wants you to be.  One thing that Jesus did was to give His life. Where does the Lord want you to give your life?  What can you do to give it more fully and completely?

No matter how many books I read on leadership or what I seek to learn, I must always come back to the fact that Jesus, not Calvin, Luther, Collins, Maxwell or any other earthly leader, is my model for leadership.  He is the One who understands servant leadership and can help me apply the principles, whether in business, community or church. 

Tomorrow we will talk about what servant-leadership is not, but for today, it is about serving the highest priority needs of others.  It is putting my gifts, talent and experience at the disposal and use of other people, for their benefit and advancement.  It is trusting God for my needs even when they are greater than the ones I am serving and leading.  It is leading even when it's not popular or understood, again trusting that my reputation and "good name" are in His hands to control.

So while I will write a lot about what others have to say about leadership and hopefully add something of my own to the mix.  Let it never be misunderstood where I stand.  Jesus was and is the greatest servant-leader who ever lived, and He is not just the object of my affectation or emulation, but the object of my faith. 


It has been a while since I wrote about servant-leadership, and I have noticed a general trend of people finding this site while doing a search on that topic.  My lack of writing about this isn't due to lack of interest or commitment, so I thought it would be good once again to devote a few posts to the subject.

I am on record saying that there is a leadership crisis in the Church and, in some ways, society in general.  Don't misunderstand; we have plenty of leaders and more than enough servants.  What we don't have is leaders who understand the concepts of servant-leadership.

I follow many of the blogs and sites that bemoan the condition of the local church. They mock some of the goofy trends in the Church that deserve to be mocked.  They debate and write to come up with better philosophical and theological solutions to our current dilemma.  Many of these bloggers are much better writers and thinkers than I, so I read them and agree with almost all of them. Yet the leadership crisis worsens daily.

For one of my upcoming D.Min. classes, I am re-reading and re-listening to Jim Collins' book, Good to Great.  In that book, Collins outlines the principles he discovered from his research into what made good companies great companies.  Collins has also written a short pamphlet applying and analyzing the "good to great" principles in the social sector, which would include churches.  One of the concepts that Collins describes, and it's at the top of his list, is what he has come to call Level 5 leaders.  This is just another name for servant-leaders.

What is a Level 5 leader?  Collins explains:

 "Level 5 refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top.  Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.  They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company [or organization], and not themselves. . . Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results.  They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or hard the decisions." (page 39). 

It is my contention that we can debate the theology of the Church all day long -- what it should be, the appropriate mix of outreach and missions, and the appropriate structure -- but until we have a change in the heart and thinking of leaders, we will continue to repeat the same problems we have experienced in the last 30 years. We don't have a lack of creativity or ideas of what the Church should be; in my opinion, we don't have enough servant-leaders.

I have found that when most people plant churches, sometimes even breaking away from an oppressive church situation to do so, they don't resolve to change the leadership philosophy or practice they experienced. They simply determine they are going to do a better job than the previous leaders under which they served. Until we see and accept that the current leadership attitude and spirit are flawed, then we will not see any change in the Church, whether we call the church seeker-sensitive, seeker-friendly, seeker-tolerant, seeker-suspect, or "us-four-and-no-more."

I heard Collins talk about Level 5 leaders in New York City before he ever published Good to Great and I cried.  (For those of you who know me, you know that is a significant event!).  He talked about how Level 5 leaders practice the principles of the window and the mirror.  I'll let Collins explain what he means in his own words:

"Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves.  When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.  [Other kinds of leaders do] just the opposite--they look in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results." (page 39).

Why did I cry when I heard him talk about this?  I cried because I never, ever heard or read about anything like this in the Church, and I still don't, for the most part.  I read plenty about philosophical changes that need to be made in church theology but until we identify leadership as the problem and pursue specific remedies, we won't make much progress.  We will start over and over again, and enjoy the ennui of fresh starts, only to find ourselves in the same woeful predicament due to lack of servant-leaders.  My solution to the church leadership crisis is to work to become a Level 5 leader.  I don't need a title, an armor-bearer, an office or a position to do so.  And neither do you.

I want to contribute to the healing of the Church and her members not by replicating the mistakes of the past, only doing a better job of implementing a flawed system and philosophy.  I want to model servant-leadership and train servant-leaders, not working with those who are content to tweak the past but who want to learn from the past and change the present for a better future.  And by the way, I don't think the leadership crisis is limited to the Church.  I do believe, however, that we must address it there so that we can once again produce leaders who go forth to transform society.  At the present, most leaders are built and shaped outside the church and then come to worship.  I want to reverse that process -- they come to worship, are shaped into servant-leaders and go out from that point.

Stay tuned for more to come about servant-leadership in the coming days.  I haven't forgotten about it.  I am just now ready to do something about it! 

    Feel free to add your comments to this entry on the site where it is posted.

Kill the Lion

I am back home, recovering from my month-long choir tour. Yes, there is some recovery to be achieved. Event planning and touring require intense effort. You are always on call, constantly strategizing how to get from here to there in a timely manner, planning where you will feed 42 people and sweating the daily details. This morning I sent out my first Bible study in a month and I missed writing, yet there was barely time to eat let alone write. I take off today for a week of ministry in Grand Junction, Colorado, but have a lot of catching up to do today before I leave.

I've been meditating and reflecting on Luke 22:24-27 again this week. In case you don't remember, this is what Jesus said in those verses:

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

These verses contain Jesus' leadership philosophy and expectations for those whom He calls to lead. In my limited experience, service is the only way a leader can keep from being enamored and addicted to power and prestige. I drove a truck this past month for a choir, many of whom were younger than I. Yet my leadership role, if indeed I had one, was from the driver's seat, not from a limousine. I had no "armor bearer." I bore the armor, along with the luggage and personal effects, for others.

It occurred to me one day while driving that I have never seen any spiritual leader repent of an abuse of power in my 34 years in the Church. I have seen leaders repent of sexual sin and others repent for money mismanagement. Yet I have never heard anyone get up and say, "I need to repent today because I abused the power that God gave me to lead. I have taken advantage of people. I have assumed the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of my followers. I was mean and made people serve my agenda and whims in an ungodly way. I'm sorry, I ask your forgiveness and seek your prayers for the grace to change." Maybe it has happened and I never heard about it. I hope so.

There was a movie a few years ago with Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer called The Ghost and The Darkness. It was the story of the lions of Tsavo, two man-eating lions who were hunted and killed in the film. It is said that a lion who has tasted human blood must be tracked and killed, for it will prefer humans to any other prey from that point on. It is the same with leadership. Once someone has tasted the power in controlling or ruling another, it is almost impossible to turn back. Instead, there is only a taste for more and more power, even if that person started out being a servant of Jesus.

Luke 22 isn't a leadership option, it is a leadership standard set and modeled by Jesus Himself. We cannot measure anyone's leadership by their number of followers or success achieved. We must measure it by the standard set in Luke 22:24-27. And that standard is measured by one thing and one thing only: service to other people. Yet when you talk service among leaders, you almost invariably hear, "Yes, but someone must be in charge or there will be chaos." With those words, we tend to dismiss or excuse the lack of practical service that exists among spiritual leaders. With those words, we also accept abuse of power by leaders as a necessary evil; without it, the prevailing wisdom dictates that no one will be in charge and thus nothing will get done.

If I asked you today to give yourself a score from one to ten (one being poor and ten being exceptional) where Luke 22 is concerned, what would it be? Are you happy with that score? How could it improve in the next 60 days? Can you kill or at least control the lion in you that is in all of us, the lion that wants to rule others and have power? I hope you can, but the bigger problem is not whether you can do this. The problem is whether I can do this in and for myself.

Leadership Philosophy

I am in the Jo'burg Airport, waiting for my night flight to Amsterdam. I have a quick turnaround there to fly out to Detroit and then I will be back in Pittsburgh at around 6 PM. I am glad to be going home.

I've been thinking about leadership style and philosophy a lot the last couple of weeks. Everyone has a leader philosophy, did you know that? It may even be "I will never lead anything." That statement will then direct and guide their decisions where leadership is concerned.

My philosophy is as follows:

I was born to lead. I must work hard, however, to be the best leader that I can possibly be. At the same time, I want to exercise a team approach to leadership that will seek out and value the input and worth of every individual. As a leader, I will share finances, success and credit with all those who contribute. I will also use my leadership power to serve others so that they can become all that God wants them to be.

I would like to think that this philosophy is consistent with what is known as servant-leadership. I don't think servant-leadership is one among many acceptable styles of leadership. I believe it is the only style that is consistent with the model that Jesus provided. I think authoritarian leadership, no matter how well meaning, is an affront to God and is a spirit of anti-Christ. By that, I mean that it is the exact opposite of Jesus' style and spirit; thus it is anti or against His style.

Were there times when Jesus was authoritative? Of course! He was and is God. So for anyone to use Jesus as the reason that they rule over others is absurd.

When I reflect on my own leadership philosophy philosophy, I go to 1 Peter 5:2-3

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Here we see three important aspects of godly leadership:

1. It is willing. Leaders who are not willing are usually angry people. They don't want to lead and don't enjoy it when they do. So they take it out on the people who follow.

2. It must be free from greed. Paul said in Acts 20:33, "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing." I am not against leaders having money, even a lot of it. They just have to be careful from where they get it. To get it from God's people is wrong.

3. It cannot be lorded. Jesus said, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:25-27).

Now you may be quick to think: "That's how church leadership should be, but that style won't work in the business world." I beg to differ. You can be a servant-leader anywhere. That doesn't mean you are weak or that you stand by while everyone does what they darn well please. On the contrary, servant-leaders exhort, encourage, teach, train, confront, discipline and even release workers and volunteers. They do all those things, however, in the other person's best interests as well as in the interest of the mission or organization they serve.

I heard Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, talk about level five leaders, who have great personal humility coupled with a strong will to achieve professionally. He said that all level-fives practice the principle of the window and mirror. They practice the window principle when things go right, and "look out the window" to see with whom they can share the credit. They practice the principle of the mirror when things go wrong, for it's then that they look in the mirror and take personal responsibility for the problems.

Authoritarian leaders reverse those principles, looking for those to blame when things go wrong and usually giving themselves the lion's share of credit when things go right.

I have stated previously that we have a crisis of leadership today, especially in the Church. Society's leaders weren't trained and developed in church. They may go to church or have grown up attending church, but they didn't learn their leadership style there. They learned it out in the marketplace. Why hasn't the Church produced leaders? Because the church leaders haven't modeled servant-leadership.

So what's the answer? It's almost too late to change a leadership style and philosophy once someone attains a leadership level. That's why a leadership philosophy is so important for everyone before they have power and position. After one has achieved a level of leadership and tasted the fruits of power, it is a rare case when that person begins to serve and give that power away to empower others.

I wrote an article a few years ago entitled Sinners in the Hands of An Angry Leader, a take off on Jonathan Edward's classic 18th century sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God. I am attaching it below, for it makes the case that anger is the hallmark of authoritarianism.

Right now, I think I am modeling servant-leadership in Zimbabwe. I have no office, title, staff or expectations of others. It is true that people serve me and I am grateful, but they do it, I trust, willingly and without coercion. I try to pay people for what they do, even if it's just a token. It is also true that others, namely Celebration Church and Pastor Tom, have opened the doors and allowed me to function in that world and with that philosophy. I am grateful to the Church and Tom. At the same time, I have no contract and can be relieved of my services at any point in time. I am only as good as my next visit, only as valuable as the value I can bring to the people in the organization. They owe me nothing for the past nor do I have any expectations.

Do you have a leadership philosophy? Would you care to share it with my readers? if so, then feel free to include it on the site where this entry is posted. And feel free to let me know if I'm being too harsh, hard or judgmental. I know leadership isn't easy, but that should be no excuse for executing it poorly or in an ungodly manner.

Download article: Sinners in the Hands.doc

Be Careful How You Hear

Last week, I began writing on the issue of listening.  Good listening skills are the hallmark of any effective servant-leader.  In my post entitled Listening, I quoted Robert Greenleaf and Stephen Covey.  Today I want to quote Jesus:"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him" (Mark 4:24-25).  

Jesus regularly said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  Isn't that a strange statement?  Not if you apply it to the art of listening.  You can sometimes hear something or someone, but you don't take the time to comprehend what you heard. You have ears, but you haven't heard.

About ten years ago, I had to face the fact that I was a poor listener.  I was listening, but I was preparing my answer or response.  That caused me to miss subtle and not-so-subtle meanings contained in the words and body language of those talking to me.  When I determined that I wanted to be a servant-leader, I knew my listening skills had to drastically improve.  I'm still working at it.

One of my strategies to improve was to ask more and better questions.  That enabled me to stay focused with some measure of control while pursuing the heart of those speaking.  It has worked for me, and that is why I am so intrigued with the questions that Jesus asked His followers.  If I can learn from the Master-Question-Asker, they may be hope yet for me to be an effective listener and servant-leader.


I got back last night from my visit to Seattle and Dallas.  It was a great trip.  I love both cities and have been to both enough times that I know my way around.  In other words, I know where to shop, sleep and eat.  It's halibut and crab season in Seattle, so the restaurants had some great fish specials. 

It was great to reconnect with my friends at The Pacific Institute and to have dinner with my friend, Sheila Hunt from Arkansas, who attended their four-day seminar.  I also had a chance to work with Tom Deuschle, my pastor friend from Zimbabwe, before he returns to Zimbabwe next Wednesday.  And now I am back in Pittsburgh for a few days and spring is just around the corner. 

If you do any reading or study concerning servant-leadership, you will know that listening is one of the key characteristics of an effective listener.  Robert Greenleaf, father of the modern servant-leader teaching, wrote: 

"Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, are essential to the growth of the servant leader . . . . The most successful servant-leaders are those who have become skilled empathetic listeners."

Stephen Covey wrote:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. . . . The essence of empathetic listening is not that you agree with someone; it's that you fully, deeply understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually."

So how good of a listener are you?  Part of the listening process is asking good questions that enable you to probe what someone is saying for hidden meaning and clarity.  One of the most effective servant-leaders ever was Jesus.  It's no surprise that He addressed the issue of listening when He taught.  It's also no surprise that He regularly asked good questions. 

In the next few posts, I want to look at some of what Jesus had to say about listening and study some of the questions He asked so that you can be a more effective listener.  Sound good?  I hope so. 

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I Missed the Plane

I missed my plane in Detroit, so I arrived in Rome about three hours later than expected.  But hey, I'm here and so is my luggage, so I can't complain.  I lost all my exit row seats when I had to change flights, so there wasn't a lot of sleeping on the way over. I did, however, play a lot of Bejeweled and Shanghai.  I start my tour tomorrow here at The Vatican.  Tonight I had a great dinner in the hotel; the Italians know how to do food!  I'm staying at the Jolly Midas hotel.  Don't ask me where it is.  I'll know more tomorrow. 

I'd promised to share some notes on my study of servant-leadership in Isaiah.  Instead of posting them, however, I thought I would put them at the end of this entry.  That way you can either ignore them or access them with one click.  If you don't read them, then you'll just have to read my updates from Italy, which I'm sure will be good.

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Servant Leadership in Isaiah Part I

I'm getting ready to depart for Rome later today and will be in Europe for a little more than two weeks.  During that time, I thought I would pass along some Bible study I've been doing in the book of Isaiah on the topic of servant leadership. 

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1).

1. Servant-leaders don’t serve themselves.  They always serve someone or something outside themselves.  In the case above, God calls the servant leader “my” leader.  In addition to serving God, servant-leaders serve the vision or mission of the organization they lead. 

2. Servant-leaders also serve the people with whom they work.  Their delight comes from seeing people fulfilled and work accomplished in an atmosphere of peace.  Servant-leaders are truly servants, therfore, serving the God over them, the vision to which they are called and the people who follow them and the vision.

3. Servant-leaders are concerned with justice according to this verse. What is justice?  I think it’s fair and equitable treatment for all people according to common-sense standards.  As a servant leader would like to be treated, so they treat others. 

4. This requires that the servant-leader understand what motivates people, which of course is different from person to person.  What is just for one may not be fair and just for another.  At the same time, there need to be policies that allow everyone the chance to have input into what work will be done, how it will be done, and how they will be compensated.

QUESTION:  A servant is concerned with justice.

How do you define justice in the position you are in at present?

What injustice exists that you see and would like to correct?

Feel free to add your answer to these questions or any other comments concerning servant leadership on the site where this entry is posted.  I'll try to keep you posted on my travels, but my access to the Internet may be limited.