This post is part of my “What is a Man?” series. When I say “man,” I do not mean “male” as in the sexual gender, although that does play some part in it. I’m referring to what makes up a true adult man—a good man. This is not someone perfect, as those do not exist, but someone who has matured and embraced qualities that make them, well, quality. Much of this comes from the study of Christian Scripture, but I believe it applies to anyone, regardless of their faith.
What is a man? In the last few years, our society seems to be struggling with the concept of what a woman is, and it is an important question. But in my way of thinking, if we struggle with one, sooner or later we are going to struggle with the other. As a consequence, our boys and young men are not taught the things they need to know so they can develop into wise, independent, and capable adults. So I decided to explore this topic, and it looks like it is going to take a series to do it. I decided to start with this concept of servant leadership because I think it can be challenging and has enough parts and pieces to lay a foundation on which to build the rest of the series. The scriptures have a lot to say about this, and I’m going to heavily rely on them.
A good leader is not a boss but a servant.
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [a**] 44, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ” Mark 10: 42–45
In our modern culture, we often associate the word “leader” with someone who is in charge, someone who tells you what to do, like a boss at work.
boss1 | bôs | noun a person who is in charge of a worker, group, or organization: I asked my boss for a promotion.
• Informally, a person in control of a group or situation: does he see you as a partner, or is he already “the boss”? the boss of the largest crime family in the country.
verb [with object] (usually to boss someone around): give someone orders in a domineering manner: he does not like being bossed around.
While it is true that people with leadership qualities are the best people to put in charge of a company or team, a true leader is someone who serves others. I don’t remember who it was, but someone told me that a good leader is someone who asks, “What can I do to help further your success?” This often means not telling someone what to do but asking what they need from you to fulfill their duties, grow as a person, and generally be the best version of themselves. Then the servant leader acts on those things to help the person in the way that they have asked.
Servant Leaders Commit Acts of Service
35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35
Not only does a servant leader ask how he can help, he often helps without anyone asking. When he sees work to do, a servant leader just does it. When the trash needs to be taken out, a servant leader will take it out. If someone spills something in the kitchen and doesn’t clean it up, a servant leader will take care of it. And in the words of Wayne from Letterkenny: “When a friend asks for help, you help ’em.”
This is leadership by example. When we do good, it can inspire others to do the same. If you want to teach your children to clean up after themselves, clean up after yourself. If you help out a friend or neighbor, they are more likely to help you when the time comes, or at least be more likely to smile and wave when they see you moving the lawn.
Don’t misunderstand, we don’t do these things because we want people to help us later or because we expect something like that (or anything else) in return. We do it to inspire others to be servant leaders themselves.
A servant leader puts the needs of others before their own.
35 In all things, I have shown you that by working hard in this way, we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
We all have “stuff” to do—work we need to get done both at work and at home. Sometimes it’s a lot of work. But a servant leader makes time for others. A servant leader does not think of helping others as taking away from their work or even their time because helping other people is part of their work.
That does not mean that every time someone has a need, we have to drop everything to help them through it. Sometimes the thing we are doing is urgent, and the other person’s is less so. So we can give them a timeframe when we can help and then stick to it. If, for some reason, that timeframe does not end up working, we can let that person know and give a new time, as long as we don’t keep putting it off indefinitely.
It’s also important to realize that we don’t need to have all the answers. Which is good because we can’t. We also don’t need to be responsible for fixing everything or even try to fix everything. Sometimes a servant leader just needs to be a good listener, to hear what a person is saying and try to understand. To be a good sounding board. When we take the time to do that, sometimes the person can work the problem out themselves, but they still need you to be there for that purpose.
Servant leaders follow their leaders.
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17
Almost every leader in the world has a leader that they follow. For those few people that don’t, they still have people who warn them about what they can’t (or shouldn’t) do. Servant leaders are not only servants to the people “under” them but also to the people “above” them. So they listen to and follow those who are leading and teaching them. This is not only how we as servant leaders learn and grow; it is also how we lead by example. When the people we are training and serving see us follow our leaders, it encourages them to follow us.
Servant leaders own their emotions.
2 Therefore an overseer [a**] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, [b**] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his household, how will he care for God’s church? 1 Timothy 3:2–5
Men who would be servant leaders and good men in general must learn to own their emotions. In the last 10–15 years, our society has seemed increasingly angry, and the pandemic has only accelerated it. Whether we are leading others or not, we must set an example of calm and collectedness. A true man knows how to disagree with others without resulting in shouts, insults, or even physical violence. When our emotions do start to get the better of us, a real man learns to pull them back, apologize, and repent.
A real man also knows how to have a good time without losing control of himself through drugs or alcohol. I’m not a teetotaler. I enjoy a good beer (nut brown ales, stouts, and porters are best), a good glass of wine, or even a little bourbon. But not to excess. Do you say you’re not the driver for the night? I don’t care. A real man knows how to control himself, and that includes drinking.
Real men also know how to stand on their own two feet. To manage their resources and be responsible for them. We have a growing epidemic of young men living with their parents as long as they can, staying home, and playing video games. It’s one thing to stay home a few years after high school to work and get your education. But to me, a man is not a man until he moves out and pays his way.
The Values of a Servant Leader and a Good Man
To wrap this up and bring it home, I want to close with some important values that all servant leaders and good men need to have. This is not all-encompassing, and no one is going to be successful at it all the time. What is important is that we strive to achieve them every single day.
The greatest strength of a man is not in his body but in his values. The measure of a man is his ability to stick to a set of moral principles. Having integrity is the highest measure of a man’s reputation.
A man is someone you can trust. His word is his bond. The people in our lives need to know that they can trust us in every way possible. To keep our commitments. To feel safe around us. To know that we are good.
Men seek to understand and relate to the feelings of others. It does not mean that we have to agree with everything another person says. But to understand and try to relate to where someone else is coming from not only helps us relate and have a productive conversation, it also makes the other person feel seen and heard.
A servant leader and a good man work collaboratively with others. It’s an old cliche, but it’s true: “No man is an island.” We need to stand on our own two feet as much as we can, but we also need to ask for help when we need it and be willing to work with others to solve their problems as well. Working together fosters empathy and trust and leads to integrity when people know they can go to you for help.
It’s one thing to be confident, but another to be cocky. No matter how hard we work, we rarely get anything done by ourselves. This is why, when you see an athlete interviewed after a great game or match, they often praise their teammates for the work they did. A good man knows he is not the most important person in the world; he is just striving to be the best version of himself that he can be.
Above all else, a servant leader and a good man show respect for everyone. Another person’s body, their opinions, and their rights He respects the law and those in authority, especially those in the uniformed services. It does not matter if you don’t like what the other person says, does, or represents. Respect is the basis for human dignity, which we all deserve. It’s good to stand up for what’s right and to obey the dictates of your conscience. But we must do it in a way that respects the beliefs and welfare of others. That is the measure of a man.
Bible references are taken from the English Standard Version
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant. - Max De Pree In TL;DR #127 - subscribe at wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #leadership #identity #focus #vision #goals #cultu” by wiobyrne is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.