Servanthood as Identity or Strategy?

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?
 
 
 

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Josh Collins

7 years ago

This is great! I echo this whole heartedly! One of the greatest leaders I have been fortunate enough to learn from taught me this early on. It’s a much needed reminder for all of us, that effectively, we gain our life, when we loose. To serve is to lead, less is more, etc.
Thanks as usual Mark!

mark

7 years ago

Thanks, Josh for joining the conversation. Great leaders serve! Mark

David Stravers

7 years ago

Servanthood as identity is right on. I’m a natural “investor” (see my book Measuring What Matters:Accountability and the Great Commission), so I’ve struggled at times with prioritizing and “measuring out” acts of service. The truly selfless acts are those with no return, and usually very limited impact. This follows the example of Jesus who “healed all who came to him.” This does not necessarily conflict with Jesus’ strategic investments (the Twelve, the Seventy, the Cross), nor should our servant identity prevent us from making strategic decisions to invest wisely.

mark

7 years ago

David, thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree, I see no conflict between servanthood and strategic leadership. The best leaders do BOTH. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Nathan Magnuson

7 years ago

Great Crawford quote, Mark – I needed that. Also, one of the question Jeff Myers and Paul Stanley both ask is, “Are you a leaders who serves or a servant who leads?” That one changes the picture as well.

Scott Jones

7 years ago

Mark thank you for a great post. I routinely enjoy what Crawford has to say and this is no exception. I serve on the leadership team at WinShape Retreat and was wondering if the presentation you are referencing was live or is a recording that you could provide the link to?
Thank you….

mark

7 years ago

Scott, the presentation I referenced was live. However, Crawford has written a book on the topic entitled, Leadership as an Identity. The only reason I didn’t mention it in the post is I haven’t read it yet. I’m sure it will be wonderful – I just don’t usually recommend books I haven’t read. Thanks for all you do. Please call on me if I can serve you or your team. Mark

David

7 years ago

Mathew 23 11-12 do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. MSG

mark

7 years ago

Thanks, David. Great leaders do serve – they always have. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

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