What is Servant Leadership?

At North Valley we define servant leadership as “taking the initiative for the benefit of others.” It’s a style of leadership that takes into account others' needs and interests first and foremost. Those who become servant leaders don't seek power or arrive at a leadership role over night. Most focus first on serving. Most have spent their time in the trenches, meeting people's needs. While many leaders grab for power by seeking to secure a title or position, the servant leader arrives at his or her position by caring for others.

I can recall my first summer of training as a river guide in large whitewater rafting company in Colorado. There was a hot shot—Jeff was his name—who said he could perfectly guide each rapid, class 1-3, with little training. At first, I humbly admired his confidence but increasingly became concerned and skeptical after seeing that his confidence was actually arrogance. It turns out he nearly killed everyone in his raft after he pinballed through a class III rapid, slamming a raft with six other people against a limestone wall. The roaring river nearly crushed and drowned them. Jeff overestimated his ability, grabbed for power and position, and failed to wait. He wasn’t thinking of others. He was in it for himself. Let’s just say no one else wanted to ride with Jeff during our training sessions.

On the other hand, there was Chad. Chad was slow, analytical, and methodical. He was the engineer type. In training he asked a lot of questions, talked to his paddle team, and appointed people to positions in the boat based on their needs. He was slow to speak and quick to listen to our trainers' instruction. Chad ended up being one of the most gifted whitewater boaters I ever knew. His careful observation and humble spirit made him a superb learner and expert boater. From rafting to kayaking, there were few better than my friend Chad. In fact, guess who became my kayak instructor and new best partner for my whitewater adventures. You got it: Chad! He cared for people. He was a careful steady servant leader. If Chad was with me, I would follow him down class I, II, III, or even class IV whitewater! It’s the same in the Christian life as well. Leaders are the learners. They carefully observe God’s Word and seek to apply it. In the next few blogs we will learn more about servant leadership.

1) Are you a "Chad" or a "Jeff"?

2) Look at North Valley’s definition of servant leadership. What would change if you incorporated more servant leadership into your relationships?

3) Why do you think Servant Leadership is hard?