What is your definition of a leader? This question was asked of a diverse group of historians and philosophers. They were then asked to name the greatest leader which met their definition. As you can imagine, a wide range of definitions, and categories were examined. A universal definition emerged. Sorry, but I can’t recall the name of the group conducting the study or their exact definition for a leader. They surely deserve credit. (Anyone knowing the name of this study group and its findings please pass along the information so proper credit can be given.)

This may not be the exact definition they came up with, but it’s as near as can be remembered and serves our purposes. A leader is someone with the acquired or innate ability to foster and maintain a community.” Ok, let’s see if we can figure out what this scholastic, universal definition says. First, let’s examine what it doesn’t say. Notice that it doesn’t distinguish between good or bad from a moral, political, economic or military perspective. Neither does it consider gender or age. Another thing which isn’t included is the size of a community, or a time period for maintaining the community.

Note the positive parts of the definition: acquired, innate, foster, maintain. Acquired or innate means you’re born with the ability or it is somehow learned. Foster has to do with the ability to bring folks together and keep them together.  This is where the leader’s vision plays the key role. Community, on the other hand is a group of folks, a work group, a governmental unit, a family or just one or two others following the vision. This definition is probably as close as we can come to one that encompasses and defines all leaders.

So you may ask, “what distinguishes a servant leader from a quality leader or any other type of leader”? That’s a good question since they both quality and servant leaders demonstrate similar attributes. Quality leadership is generally associated with some form of employment, such as working together to produce products, goods or services. In other words it’s the way you conduct business. Servant leadership on the other hand is more than the way one conducts business, it’s a life style. Servant leadership is the way you continually conduct yourself. Both quality and servant leaders mentor, teach and have a high concern for people. However, the servant leader is never “off the clock”.

Remember the last part of the above mentioned study, which was to evaluate great leaders? Well, the categories and diversity of great leaders were awesome, and a great summary of human history. The study group proceeded to rank these leaders  by those who fostered and maintained the largest community for the longest period of time. In other words, who was able to inculcate their vision with the largest number of folks for the greatest period of time. The person selected was a Hebrew in the first century C.E., named Yeshua of Nazareth. (He is known to the Western world as Jesus of Nazareth). The community he fostered has been in existence for thousands of years, and even today has millions of followers. You may not agree with the findings of the study group, and can name others which have had an extremely large following, for thousands of years. Yeshua however, epitomizes a servant leader and his life and teachings bear examination and imitation.

The English author and historian H.G. Wells (1866-1946) is quoted by the magazine Israel My Glory saying, I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as an historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.Yeshua’s life and teaching’s can be found in the Gospels (An English transulation of the Greek word meaning good news). Since the gospels were written toward the close of the first century by his intimate followers, study them as you would a historical/biographical text book. First of all in your studies put his life and teachings into context. You may have heard the statement “Any text taken out of context is a pretext”. This statement is true, especially when dealing with ancient translations. Ok, how does one put Yeshua’s life into context? Answer five (W’s) and one (H). These are Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. We will not go into a full discussion of the context using the five (W’s) and an (H). However, if you would like, it can be added in the future. Never the less, keep the five ‘W’s’ and one ‘H’ in mind as you read through the gospels. Instead of a long discussion on context, we’ll look at His life and teachings using our web site’s ‘chapters’ as an outline. (Why a vision, Needs Wants and Desires, Understanding Yourself and Others, Quality Management/leadership, Servant leadership)

Some Background (a partial context)

Yeshua lived in the first half of the first century C.E.  During this time Israel was under the domination of Rome. Rome and all its provinces were ruled by the Emperor, through appointed officials. Rome’s rule was simple, just ‘do what Rome says’!! This is Totalitarianism, which is the ultimate in a command and control style of leadership. (Servant leadership wasn’t practiced or even heard of yet.) Israel had an appointed King for secular matters and a High Priest for administrating religious law. Both of which were autocratic and under the thumb of Rome.

Yeshua was a Hebrew, (commonly called Jewish). The term Jew or Jewish is actually derived from the term Judean. He was from the town of Nazareth but born in the town of Bethlehem. He was of the tribe of Judah, and from the linage of King David.  Being Jewish, He was taught from the Hebrew Tanakh (the Law, Prophets and the Writings), which is the Hebrew Bible or what today is called the Old Covenant. He kept the old Mosaic Law perfectly. He practiced a Jewish way of life with all its rituals, observances and ceremonies.

His life and teachings are found in four Gospels, written in the first century CE by Mathew (Levi), Mark, Luke and John. Mathew and John were two of his shlichim (apostles, meaning sent with a commission). They were mentored by Him for three years, and they give us an eye witness account in their accounts.  Mark and Luke were talmidim disciples. Paul (Saul) was also a shlichim and commissioned, however not during Yeshua’s lifetime. However, many of his letters written to various early churches are part of Scriptures. No origional manuscripts have ever been found. However, a scroll fragment of Marks gospel written in Greek, was among the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1948 at Qumran. This scroll fragment designated 7Q5 is dated to the first or second century C.E.  These scrolls were stored in clay jars by the Essene people sometime during the second century C.E.. Fragment 7Q5 contains part of chapter six verse 52-53 of the gospel according to Mark.

Quotations from the gospels used in our discussion are all taken from the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Project, THE TREE of LIFE. This new translation, in English, uses a Messianic sensitive with modern family friendly vocabulary. The term Messiah in Hebrew means ‘anointed one’, a reference to Yeshua. This translation is in a dialogue format. Verses are numbered the same as other translation, but are not indented. Instead, the verse numbers are superscripts. Thus, they do not break up sentences or paragraphs. This narrative/dialogue format makes for smooth easy reading, studying and understanding. (ISBN 978-0-7684-3816-1)

Now, let’s look at Yeshua the epitome of a servant leader.

His Vision: A part of Yeshua’s vision is recorded for us in the Gospel of John (an eye witness), chapter ten verse ten through verse eleven. (John 10:10-11) John, in this section records a parable (an analogy or simple short story from which a lesson can be drawn). Yeshua describes himself in this parable as a good shepherd, and those that follow him as his sheep. He says, “I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly”! “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Thus, we see a vision (abundant life for his followers) and “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. (Defining him as a dedicated servant) Yeshua again describes himself and encourages his disciples and apostles, telling them, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and ‘you will find rest for your souls’ for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 29-30).  Here again the servant leader is described (humble and gentle in heart), and adds to the vision ‘finding rest for your soul’.

A contrast in leadership styles is described in (Matthew 20:25-27) which reads.“..Yeshua called them (his disciples) over and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones play the tyrant over them, it shall not be this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant”

Another quote from Yeshua in Matthew 23:11 reads “..,but the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted”. Mark 9:35 quotes Him as saying “if any man wants to be first, he shall be least of all and the servant of everyone”. These statements fairly well define a servant leader’s life style. This is why Yeshua is said to be the greatest leader the world has known. His community is world wide and still growing.

Here is an attempt to summarize a portion of His vision. ‘Follow my (Yeshua’s) example and teachings, and become a humble and gentle servant, and you will have an abundant life and have rest for your soul.’

Needs, Wants and Desire

Hopefully, you have gone through the chapter on Needs, Wants and Desires. You may remember while going through that unit, we looked at some commonality between past and modern cultures, and listed a few. One common desire or hope, not discussed was prolonging life, even after physical death. Many cultures believed in an ‘after life’. Notable were the Egyptians, Incas, Chinese and Hebrews, although there are others. Yeshua’s vision holds out the hope and promises of abundant life not only just life on earth, but also an everlasting life. You can see why His vision of prolonging life would satisfy a strong basic desire.

An ‘ after life’ was confirmed to his followers when he told them they would see him killed and buried and then after three day arise. This happened! The gospel writers were eye witnesses. One of the shalichim (apostles) name Paul (Saul), wrote a letter to fellow believers in the Greek city of Corinth. He said, “He (Yeshua) was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter (Kefa), then to the twelve. Then He appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time – most of them are still alive, although some have died, Then he appeared to Jacob, then to all the shalichim  and last of all to one untimely born, He also appeared to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:4-8.) At the time of Paul’s (Saul) writing many folks could give an eye witness account of the event. In a court of law, the testimony of two eye witnesses is the strongest type of evidence. Here we have the testimony of eye witnesses including 500 other folks. Yeshua’s teaching and claims were documented and are surely true!

Paul (Saul) also sent a letter to fellow believers in the Macedonia city of Philippi in which he encourages them and tells them, “My God will fulfill every need of yours according to His Glory in Messiah Yeshua”. That statement of faith says our basic need will be provided. Note, needs not necessarily all wants or desires. Yeshuas desire is that all people will trust and become a servant type leader (Talmidim).

Understanding Yourself and Others

Understanding yourself and others is of paramount importance for a servant leader’s life style, because it allows you to see yourself and other folks for who they are as individuals. Thus, you can be a mentor and help others to maximize their strong points and minimize their weak ones, while gaining a deeper understanding of oneself.

We must understand that we are all greedy people. The goal is getting folks working together for mutual benefit not just for our own benefit. We all must overcome our greed on the path to servant leadership. The definition for greed is “to have more than one needs or deserves”.  There is all manner or kinds of greed. Greed is never satisfied but can and must be suppressed. An example might be of a person who claims not to be greedy. He says “All I want is the land adjoining mine.” Sounds innocent enough, but after the boundary lines are expanded, all he wants is the land adjoining his. Where does it end? Greed is never satisfied!

Quality Management/Leadership

Both quality and servant leadership styles demonstrate similar attributes. Quality management/leadership is generally associated with application of principles and practices. Servant leadership is a life style, it’s the way you conduct yourself in all situations. Ok, all this theory and examples sound logical, but how do we get started into making the transition into becoming a servant leader? The first step is faith, trusting everything said in the gospels is true, and happened just as the eye witnesses documented. Then, understand yourself and all those others around you. Next, examine your true needs, wants and desires. In other words, adjust your priorities and attitudes. You see, it requires inculcating Yeshua’s vision, trust, teachings, ideas, habits and methods into your life. In other words following points thirteen and fourteen of Dr. Demings “must do’s”. You remember those listed in the Quality Management/Leadership unit. (Number 13: Institute a vigorous program of education and self Improvement. Number 14: Take action to accomplish the transformation.) You see Dr. Deming followed Yeshua’s teachings.

Servant Leadership life style

A command and control type leadership style is addictive! That’s why there’s so much of it. Those who sit in seats of “power and authority”, more often than not, refuse to share it. When they do share, they’re usually seeking more personal gain, power or wealth. Servant leadership builds others up, encourages them and helps them succeed. The focus is outward toward others, instead of inward toward self. A servant leader focuses on the other person and ‘treats them the way he would like to be treated’. This “golden rule” is found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31)

Here are some very simple steps to take for becoming a servant leader, as found in the gospels of Matthew and John. These are as follows, “You shall love Adonai (Lord) your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37-39). This is the greatest commandment. The second is Just like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Both of these are also found in the Hebrew Bible or Old Covenant) The gospel of John amplifies the second commandment, where Yeshua tells his followers: “I give you a new (refreshed) commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, (part of his community) if you have love for one another”. (John 13:34-35)

There’s your simple formula for a servant leadership life style. Although the formula may appear simple, the “doing” is not. Why, Because of greed and self centeredness ( placing others, things and self ahead of others)? Becoming a servant leader will transform your life and the lives of folks around you. The more you practice the easier it will become.

“Sounds logical, so how do we get started?” There are many ways, but experience shows, it’s just like taking any course of study. You get some of your knowledge from text books and the rest from experience.  The text book is the four Gospels (good news) found in a Bible. Read them through three or four times, and then practice, practice, practice what Yeshua teaches. Make it your habit to daily read the Scriptures. Your implementation can be guided by practicing Dr. Deming’s four step process for continual improvement . Plan, Do, Check, Act. Your transformation is a never ending process. have the remainder of your life here on earth to learn and practice servant leadership.

The last Chapter is the Epilogue, see you there.

Previous Chapter Quality Mangement/ Leadership

Leave a Reply