Servant Leaders as Church Planters

What kind of leader is most needed to guide the new church? Since his passing, the larger than life leader whose will, personality, and creativity drove Apple – Steve Jobs , has been the focus of the media.  Jobs fit squarely in the category of what many call “the heroic leader.” He took power and commanded people to follow him.  From my view, organizations that rely on a heroic leader usually have difficulty sustaining beyond that person’s leadership cycle. They struggle to remain high performers once the leader is gone, as Apple experienced when Jobs was out of the company in 1985.

To me, the heroic leader is the antithesis of what is generally needed today in most contexts including the new church arena.  Many leaders are failing to listen and lack the foresight and stewardship that are essential to effective leadership and long-term fruitfulness. I suggest that instead of looking for heroic leaders, organizations should seek servant leaders.

This leadership model follows the philosophy and practices first espoused in the literature 40 years ago by the management researcher, educator, writer, and consultant Robert Greenleaf. In this leadership model, which is consistent with what author Jim Collins later termed “Level 5 leadership,” servant leaders are as committed as their heroic peers to being productive for their companies, but that’s not all that drives them.

Servant leaders see themselves as their organization’s stewards and are disciplined advocates of long-term goals. They view their company as an ecosystem and understand its values. They are passionate, strong leaders who are fiercely protective of those they lead, not their personal interests. Their behavior is humble and empathetic, focused on developing the people who work with them rather than gaining accolades for themselves.  They exhibit mature situational awareness as well as foresight. They listen, even when the facts are difficult. They recognize that drawing on the talents and abilities of others helps organizations adapt to change and achieve optimal results. Servant leaders recognize that effectiveness requires patience and adaptability.

Viva la servant leader!