August 13, 2015
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 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
This excerpt from Matthew 20 teaches us the greatest lesson about leadership from scriptures: great leaders serve. Just prior to this passage, the mother of James and John was asking for Jesus to grant her sons positions of leadership at the right and left hand of Jesus. He reminds the twelve that true leadership is derived from a place of serving others, not lording authority over them.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, CARE for AIDS has six key behaviors that define our culture. My personal favorite, and maybe the keystone habit, is “help others win.” We know this principle to be true from the teachings of scripture. However, I am always excited and intrigued when I see secular culture stumble upon these universal, Biblical truths and discover they aren’t just religious rhetoric, but they are actually business best practices.
This past week, I attended the Global Leadership Summit in Chicago at Willow Creek, and three of my favorite speakers talked about the importance of serving, giving, loving, and caring for others as best practices in leadership. Only one of those three was a pastor. The other two were a high-powered executive and a tenured university professor. Here are three short takeaways from their talks:
Self-sacrificing love – Bill Hybels opened the event by talking about the intangibles of leadership. One of those was self-sacrificing love. He said, “Self-sacrificing love has been and always will be at the core of leadership. Remove the professional veil and make your leadership personal.” When surveys are conducted to determine the health of an organizational culture, the key question that separates the healthy from toxic cultures is, “Do the workers feel personal concern coming from their supervisors?”
Be a giver, not a taker – Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor in the history of Wharton Business School, has done extensive research about how peoples interactions with other people affect their success in business. He divides people into three categories: givers, takers, and matchers. Takers like to get more than they give. Givers prefer to give more than they get. Matchers try to maintain an equal balance of giving and getting. His research was so fascinating to me, but here was my big takeaway, “Givers fail in the short run but succeed in the long run.” By being a giver, you do neglect your own responsibilities in the short run, which hurts performance. But, you build social capital by helping others, and over time, others want to see you win. This secular professor has just validated Jesus’ teaching. The best leaders serve!
Caring is what service means – Horst Schultze, the founder of Ritz-Carlton, brought a compelling challenge about the importance of service, “What business is not in service?” He said that our customers expect 1) a defect-free product, 2) timeliness, and 3) the person to be nice to you. The highest purpose of any business according to Schultze is to create and retain loyal customers through exceptional service. Satisfied customers are not sufficient. Satisfied customers will leave you if a competitor makes a better offer; your customers must be loyal.
Three industries, three professionals, and one truth: leadership focused on serving others, adding value to others, and helping others win, as modeled for us by Jesus, continues to transcend time, religion, culture, and industry.