Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck
“Servant leadership” is a phrase mentioned in quarterly articles and scholarly journals—along with delegative, authoritative, and transformative. Each style makes its way through the cycles, but what makes it resonate with the reader with true impact and eventual adoption?
The leadership style you adopt aligns with your moral and ethical values. Sometimes, they stem from faith and your beliefs. But what’s better is when your values align with the company you serve and the people on your team.
Christian values in the workplace are often considered taboo. Religious beliefs in business are something no one talks about openly for fear of offending or putting off a peer. However, despite not discussing it, it can still exist and enhance the business in ways previously unrealized.
The power of servant leadership is described throughout the Bible and scripture if you know where to look. Read on if you want to excel in business with a servant-leadership approach rooted in Christian values.
What is Servant Leadership?
Robert Greenleaf said, “The servant-leader is servant first … That person is sharply different from one leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or acquire material possessions.”
So, although we cannot surmise that those in leadership positions are there through force of power—some are. For example, consider hostile takeovers or boards incongruent with the company’s values.
However, servant leadership is arguably stronger than leadership alone because it comes from the people the leader serves and leads.
Caring for others is the foundation of a good society and community—as the Bible repeats time and time. Greenleaf says servant leaders “…put other people’s needs above their own and enable their team to grow, develop, and perform to the best of their ability.”
Looking out for others is a primary component of Christian beliefs. Further, the leader of the people is more likely to have a resounding and respected leadership position than one that merely wields its power from the top down or is appointed.
Looking at Ephesians 2:10: “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the excellent work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Doing good work together only elevates the work and the worker’s quality and benefits the clients and customers. With so many parallels, we cannot ignore the importance of Christian ethics.
Take a look at the examples below for the power of servant leadership.
Three Servant Leadership Examples
Hundreds of examples of leaders exemplify the bullet points of servant leadership, including Christian values; however, here are three to consider.
Servant Leader 1: Melissa Reiff, CEO of The Container Store
Melissa Reiff took over as the CEO of The Container Store from founder Kip Tindell. Ranking on Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For,” The Container Store retains its employees and helps customers organize their lives one container at a time.
It continuously ranked as a customer favorite and strived to create “a better, more innovative and compelling place to shop and work.”
The company “focus(es) on doing what is right for all stakeholders based on their Foundation Principles and a commitment to conscious leadership,” as told to Marcel Schwantes of INC. magazine.
Mark 8:36 says, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?” Reiff brought a profit to The Container Store and did it with a steady moral compass.
Servant Leader 2: Harold MacDowell, CEO of TDIndustries
Dallas-based TDIndustries is a leading mechanical construction and facilities service company. Following founder Jack Lowe, Sr., and his son, Jack Lowe, Jr., MacDowell is committed to deepening the legacy of servant leadership within the company.
Ranking as a “Great Place to Work,” employees feel valued, appreciated, and, most importantly, respected. Additionally, the company is 100% employee-owned, and most know each other by name.
Although numerous buy-out offers worth large sums of money were offered, the company remains true to its founding principles and irreplaceable culture.
The defining list of its principles:
- Build and maintain trusting relationships
- Fiercely protect the safety of all partners
- Lead with a servant’s heart
- Passionately pursue excellence
- Celebrate the power of individual differences
Titus 2:7 states, “But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, trustworthy in your teaching, your words, solid and sane.” MacDowell continues to set an example for TDIndustries’ employees and remains profitable.
Servant Leader 3: Cheryl Bachelder
Before the current CEO of Popeyes, Cheryl Bachelder held the reigns beginning in 2007. She wrote a comprehensive case study to prove the benefits of servant leadership and how it reinvented the company from the inside out. With the stock price more than halving from 2002 to 2007, Bachelder aimed to improve the relationship between the company and its customers and employees.
She encouraged the company to operate with respect and dignity while encouraging the employees to perform at their best. As a result, they rewarded the people who invested most in the company—the franchise owners. As a result, the customer experience became more satisfying due to the power of servant leadership, and the stock price increased. Bachelder’s favorite quote is, “I must know you to grow you.”
Proverbs 22:16 says, “Exploit the poor or glad-hand the rich -whichever, you’ll end up the poorer for it.” Bachelder realized the value of increasing franchisees’ value to help elevate all stakeholders, which paid off.
Servant Leadership Continues and Evolves
The human experience is defined by growth—professionally, personally, spiritually, and emotionally. Therefore, servant leadership based on Christian roots does not stop at the starting point—you evolve with it and adapt accordingly.
You can adjust your servant leadership style at any point. Including the teachings of the Bible does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. After all, each business and leader is entitled to have their own experience.
Including God within your daily and professional lives includes the accumulated teachings of past leaders and influencers. Christain stories have influenced even the non-religious. Take, for example, the toad and the scorpion, David and Goliath, and Jonah and the Whale. Servant leadership qualities and servant leadership traits can also adapt to the changing climate of your industry. Contact me for a complimentary consultation for more information on coaching and servant leadership within your leadership style and business.