Friday, October 14, 2005

What is a Servant-Leader?

Yesterday, Herescope readers were given definitions for some popular new terms used by neoevangelical leaders. Here are a few more.

Have you ever wondered about the popular term being bandied about in neoevangelicalism today, “servant leader” or “servant leadership”? Perhaps Bible verses like these came to mind: “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:” (Matthew 20:27) or “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

But is this what the business gurus mean when they train Christian leaders to be “servant leaders”? Visit the website and click on “Servant Leadership” to see if this was what Jesus was talking about in the Scriptures. Especially note the list of books found at What do these authors mean by the term “servant leader”?

Jeff Sellers, writing in Christianity Today, February 2003, “The Higher Self Gets Down To Business,” compared the “New Paradigm” (New Age) business model to what he called Christ’s “Kingdom” model and noted how coinciding the two models could appear on the surface:

“Most of the New Business values fit well into Christ's kingdom: love; honor; service and servant leadership; trust-based ("covenantal") relationships between manager and employee, rather than fear-based ones dependent on corporate hierarchy; community; environmental stewardship; creativity; cooperation; qualitative company assets like a sense of achievement; competence; ethical behavior; corporate higher purpose and responsibility; and personal fulfillment and development.

“Not that the values espoused by New Paradigm business originated with it. Most had found their way into the mainstream long before the movement adopted them: Participative decision-making and servant leadership models that favor horizontal management structures, values-driven and people-first corporate philosophies, workplace wellness programs, and vision and mission statements. All emerged atop the tide of the past century's evolving management theory—itself often influenced by biblical values.”

Beware of misconceptions: this “past century’s evolving management theory” is rooted in the models of psychology and sociology, inherently man-centered philosophies. Many of the methodologies in modern management that have entered neoevangelicalism are manipulative and deceptive; utilize psycho-social peer group dynamic techniques; and are pragmatic, goals-oriented, and results-driven. Others are more esoteric, and would closely resemble the definitions below:

LEADERSHIP “The highest and the most complete model of man conceived and sculpted by the Indian civilization has been that of the rishi [i.e., process of comprehending the whole order of the cosmos, ed.]. The key personalities – that is, the leader – in every field used to abide instinctively by the cultural imperative of nurturing the rishi dimension in their character. . . . Etymologically, rishi implies three characteristics:
Eternal traveler (in the realm of high knowledge)
Piercer of the veil of darkness (in others)
Seer of totality

“These indeed are the pillars of Self-grounded, rita-informed wisdom leadership.”

WISDOM LEADERSHIP “What then,. . . is the basis of wisdom leadership? It is the capacity for referring to the self to the Self that is established in rita. What will this kind of Self-empowerment lead to? This will equip leadership in all walks of life to help us progress toward the true ideal of life for any society: translating the order of the cosmos (rita) into the order of society. This cosmic order or dharma includes the material, as well as the moral and the spiritual.”

"SERVICE [being a servant, ed.] Commitment to cocreation, including the salvation of humanity and healing of the Earth. The particular and unique task of fulfilling one’s destiny. To be distinguished from DHARMA in Eastern spirituality: not a duty assumed but a free choice rooted in love, determined by no other principle than the creative vision of the one who undertakes it. . . .” [emphasis added]

"DHARMA . . . Found in both Hindu and Buddhist relgion as a term for the path of service appropriate to an individual, the way of doing what is true for that one. In practical terms, duty or obligation to fulfill a particular mission or task. To find your dharma is, quite literally, to do your thing, to serve the cause of truth as you see it." The exact Western equivalent is SERVICE." [emphasis added]

[The first two definitions are derived from S.K. Chakraborty, defining “leadership” in his chapter “Wisdom Leadership: Leading from the SELF,” found in Willis Harman’s New Business of Business: Sharing Responsibilty for a Positive Global Future (Berrett-Koehler, Pub., 1997), p. 216. The third and fourth definitions are from The Seekers Handbook: The Complete Guide To Spiritual Pathfinding by John Lash (Harmony Books, 1990)]

The Truth:

For a fruitful Bible study look up the word “servant” in Strong’s Concordance. Notice the difference between an evil servant and a good servant. Here are a few other verses of relevance:

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matthew 24:45,46)

“Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching:” (Luke 12:37a)

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

Stay tuned for more definitions of popular terms!