the baby and the bathwater


Servant Leadership?
May 12, 2009, 9:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I came across a saying about leadership recently that has significantly impacted me in my walk in church leadership, and it’s this:

‘Leadership is primarily about helping others to achieve things that they couldn’t achieve on their own’.

In one sense it flies in the face of alot of what we see and perceive about leadership these days. You know the sort of thing – I can only be a good leader of other worship leaders if I have those things that give ‘credibility’ to my leadership – the odd Dove award, a worship song in the top 25 of the CCLI chart, a chart-busting album. These things, we explain, give others around us things to aim for, models to aspire to, so it is OK to go for them. Or if I am a church leader, I can only be a good leader of other church leaders if I have a book on the ‘best-sellers’ shelf in Wesley Owen, or a big following on my blog, or a full diary of leadership events where I speak.

Now as usual I am being a little cynical to make a point, but so often we feel that the only way to lead people better is to have an even greater public personal profile. And there may be a small element of truth in that. But only a small element. The thing is that, if we see leadership as more about helping others achieve things, then we often need to take on lower profile to make that happen. In fact maybe your most powerful testimony as a worship pastor should be not so much how well you lead worship, but how well those under your leadership lead worship. Maybe the greatest success as a church leader will not be the size of your church, but the size of the churches of the leaders you have mentored.

Just recently I have been involved in a few projects where I have sensed very different things: one where I have seen others to step up to the mark and lead things that they previously haven’t led before. And that has been awesome to see. People leading worship, leading ministry, doing the stuff in a way that I haven’t seen them do before. Of course, I probably won’t get any credit for it – (not that I am bothered). The other project has been the opposite, where I have seen the more gifted and more skilled head off into the distance, presumably to ‘model something for people to aspire to’ and left behind the very people they have been tasked with leading. And of course, it is questionable whether this is leadership at all.

Now of course, I am aware that leadership probably needs some element of both. I know that I can’t really lead other worship leaders if I am not leading worship well. I probably can’t mentor younger leaders if I am not pressing into leadership myself. But I recon there is a whole lot more scope in our celebrity, ego and profile driven culture for a bit more of a bias towards servant-leadership – not just more talk about it, but the living out of it, where we truly do see those around us start to achieve things that they couldn’t do on their own.

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1 Comment so far
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Hi Neil,
firstly, a big ‘oops’, somehow I failed to subscribe to your new blog location and found myself thinking all had gone quiet. Anyway, I’ve found you again and look forward to enjoying your thoughts.

Great to read these points on leadership; I was up in Harrogate last week at the New Wine thing, and was so so blown away with multiple challenges. One of the best points made was that leadership as a role should never be packaged as a means to achieve personal validation, or even packaged at all – before we were called, we were created.
And if our primary self-identity is ‘leader’, then we may be abdicating an even higher calling.

I can’t take credit for those points, it was a great guy called Flint. Even so, food for thought.

Hope you’re doing good.

Comment by the real chris marsh




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