Servant vs. Self-Serving Leaders

leading through visionOftentimes leaders are so consumed with the daily demands of leadership that they lose sight of why they are leading in the first place. Have you ever considered your motivations for leading?

In their book Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges discuss the “heart of a leader” and examine the differences between self-serving and servant leaders. The differences between these two styles of leadership are stark and should cause any leader to examine their own motivations for leading to determine which category most accurately represents their approach to leadership.

Below are five tests that will help you determine if you are more of self-serving or servant leader. These tests are adapted from the Lead Like Jesus model of leadership.

Test 1: How do you handle feedback?

  • Self-serving leaders are not interested in feedback; in fact, they discourage it. Feedback makes them insecure.
  • Servant leaders welcome and encourage feedback, desiring to hear the opinions and ideas of others. Servant leaders understand that they do not have all of the answers.

Test 2: Do you identify and prepare successors?

  • Self-serving leaders are only concerned about protecting their position and power, and they do not have the foresight to prepare successors who will take over when their season of leadership is over. They minimize and hold down others.
  • Servant leaders understand their season is temporary, and they take the time to prepare future leaders whom they can mentor, train, and develop. They multiply and develop other leaders.

Test 3: Who is in control of your life and leadership?

  • Self-serving leaders focus solely on themselves and do not relinquish control to anyone else. It’s all about them.
  • Servant leaders allow God to control and guide their lives. It’s all about God’s leading and direction.

Test 4: Do you react or respond?

  • Self-serving leaders react to situations that they perceive to be “beneath” them. They are prideful.
  • Servant leaders respond to situations by taking the time to thoughtfully consider their attitude and actions. No task or job is beneath them. They are humble.

Test 5: What and whom do you fear?

  • Self-serving leaders fear losing the things that give them self-worth—money, power, success, possessions, position, etc. They fear what men think of them and try to please people—their focus is temporal. Result: insecurity.
  • Servant leaders focus on things that are eternal and do not allow the fear of losing temporal things to burden them. They have a reverent fear of God, knowing that their security is found in Him—their focus is eternal. Result: confidence.

Use these five tests on a daily basis to help you stay focused on being a servant leader, thus avoiding the temptations associated with being a self-serving leader. If you can commit to pursuing a servant attitude in each area, I assure you that your leadership will be more effective and your impact more significant.

“Good leaders must first become good servants.” -Robert Greenleaf

Blanchard, K., & Hodges, P. (2008). Lead like Jesus. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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