Servant Leadership

Chick -fil-A is  a company founded by the late S. Cathy Truett on true biblical principles. To show the company’s commitment to Biblical values, their restaurants do not open on Sundays so that employees can go to church with their families. Though Chick-fil-Ahas been in the news of late, a recent  story, less publicized has also made the news. This time, according to CNN Money, the restaurant topped the list in customer satisfaction surveys. It was the first time the company made the list and it scored the highest ever in that category. I am convinced Chick-fil-A  shows the personality and values of its founder, S. Cathy Truett.

Personality is “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.” In the case of organizational entities, they too have characteristics and qualities  that come together to form the organization’s distinctive character.An organization’s  personality style is often defined along the lines of its founders or of its leaders. Why? Because the founders and / or leaders  infuse who they are into the organization. At its corporate headquarters there is a plaque stating Chick -fil-Aand its founders’ mission, “to glorify God.”  This according to an article in Forbes Magazine.

Leadership theorists have identified a number of styles of leadership that can be found organizations today.  The success or failure of an organization depends to a large part on the type of leadership at its helm. The Center for Association Leadership identifies eight common leadership styles. (I have changed the order listing servant as #8, and not #6 where it is in the article.)

  1. Charismatic – “Influences others through power of personality; acts energetically, motivating others to move forward; Inspires passion; may seem to believe more in self than in the team.” Oprah Winfrey is listed as an example of a charismatic leader.
  2. Innovative: “Can see what is not working and brings new thinking and action into play;  Grasps the entire situation and goes beyond the usual course of action.” Richard Branson founder of Virgin Atlantic is listed as an innovative leader
  3. Command and control: “Follows the rules and expects others to do the same.” Tom Couglin head coach of the New York Giants.
  4. Laissez-Faire: “Knows what is happening but not directly involved in it; trusts others to keep their word; monitors performance, gives feedback regularly.” Donna Karan founder of fashion giant DKNY is listed as this type pf leader.
  5. Pace Setter: “Sets high performance standards for self and the group; epitomizes the behavior sought from others.” Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon is listed as a pace-setting leader
  6. Situational:”Links behavior with group’s readiness; includes being directing and supportive, while empowering and coaching.” Pat Summit former head coach at the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team.
  7. Transformational: “Expects team to transform even when it’s uncomfortable; counts on everyone giving their best; serves as a role model for all involved.” Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are listed as transformational leaders
  8. Servant: “Puts service to others before self-interest; Includes the team in decision-making; Provides tools to get the job done; Stays out of limelight, lets team accept credit for results”

(You can read the article here:

The church as an organism derives its personality from Christ who is its head. It is built on a foundation of grace, mercy and love. The church or the local assembly on the other hand, sometimes derives its personality from the leader or pastor of the congregation. If the local pastor does not derive his or her personality from Christ the ultimate head of the church the personality of the local church may be skewed. In the above list, I have placed “servant” in that order because I believe it best shows the personality of leadership in the Christian church.

The term “servant leadership” seems like an oxymoron. For the most part people see leadership as being in charge, being in front, being visible and so on. And it is all that but it is also true that a real leader is one who is willing to serve. The apostle Peter in his epistle urged the “elders’ of the church to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Jesus Himself demonstrated an example of what it means to lead by being a servant in John 13. He and His disciples had just finished eating when He stripped off His cloak, put a towel on His shoulder and grabbed a basin of water. He proceeded to wash His disciples’ feet. The practice of washing the feet of guests was customary in those days but was assigned to a servant. When Jesus started washing the feet of His disciples, some of them allowed Him to. not knowing how to respond. Peter the one who was always quick to respond, vigorously protested. He wouldn’t let Jesus, his Master wash His feet. Jesus put an end to Peter’s protestations by insisting: “If I don’t do this, you have no part of Me!” Peter relented!

When Jesus was finished He explained His actions. “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”  He concludes by saying:  “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Jesus’ ministry epitomized servant leadership. He led by serving those to whom He had come save. He explained it this way: “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

To serve one’s constituents should be the goal of every leader, for in service one finds his or her highest ideals.


What kind of leader are you?


Leave a Reply