Is Servant Leadership for Atheists?

Servant Leadership • August 3, 2017

A recent visit to get a hair cut led into a healthy discussion on whether servant leadership can apply to atheists.

As I shared the mission of 24/7 Purpose equipping spiritual growth and servant leadership training with my stylist, it sparked a relevant conversation.  She said, “That’s so interesting because the topic of servant leadership came up with my friend who is an atheist. She was interviewing for a job, and the employer mentioned that one of their core values is being a servant leader. She left excited about the position but concerned that she might be expected to pray at work. I felt a bit embarrassed that I could not give her an immediate answer since I am a Christian so we decided to look it up and learn more about what it specifically means.” I said, “Fascinating, so what was your conclusion?” She said, “Well, we found that the core of a servant leader is one that desires to serve others, period. We concluded that prayer, as well as religious association, was not a requirement to be a servant leader.” I replied, “I am so delighted that you helped your friend find peace about a concept that has been over-complicated and misinterpreted over the years. You and I Believe that Jesus set the example as the greatest servant leader in human form which is why we find servant leadership commonly associated with Christian leaders but it’s not exclusive of others.”

Jesus commanded that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and if we read the gospels we find His leadership style to be the most inclusive and not discriminatory.  I’m confident that His command applies to atheists equal to anyone. Of course, non-Christians can be servant leaders.” She replied, “I agree, and my friend learned that the company didn’t expect her to pray but merely to set a precedence on serving others first. She is very happy there!”

I loved having this conversation with my stylist because it was Jesus in action sharing compassion for her friend regardless of her beliefs.

What does servant leadership mean?

Frequently, I am asked the question, “What does servant leadership mean?” My advice is always this, “Lead by serving others first with integrity, compassion and genuine care.” It’s that simple. The founding father of the term “servant leadership”, has a broader definition…

“The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.” -Robert K. Greenleaf

As a servant leader, my faith plays a critical role because I serve God first which by definition means that I’m serving others before myself.  His Word is the living guidance of how to serve Him and ultimately, others for His namesake.

Parents, teachers, grandparents, managers, coaches, etc. are all leaders by default. What type of leader are you? We equip people to become servant leaders, ask us how.

Carpe diem for God!

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