The Master-Servant Principle
By: Randi Walti
It might surprise you that despite all the applause we heard for the “bottom-up” leadership approaches practiced by several highly successful companies in the 1980s, the traditional corporate management strategy of companies in the United States and much of the world remains the same.
Numerous management and leadership gurus have presented a devastating critique of the “top-down,” hierarchical management systems that have dominated corporations since the 1950s, yet not much has changed. It seems clear that past practices of manipulating processes to achieve cost or profit targets, dictated by policies of “top-down” command and control of information, must be replaced by “bottom-up” empowerment.
Why does it take us so long to realize that people are more important than numbers? That if we treat our employees and customers the way we like to be treated, morale greatly improves, production soars, and business usually takes off? That the greatest asset, with the most direct and accurate information about what our company or customers need, are those workers closest to the action?
Does it surprise you to know that the word “leadership” is mentioned only six times in the entire Bible, while “servant” is mentioned 46 times in the Old Testament book of Genesis alone?
The word “servant” in the Old Testament and the word “minister” in the New Testament (which is how CEOs, owners and management that follow Jesus Christ should think of themselves) are very similar to the idea of an “under-rower.” In centuries past, to avoid death from the heat, ceilings of boats were made of metal grates where the slaves from the top and middle rows were rowing. Unable to leave their position, the “under-rowers” would receive the bulk of the sewage on their heads.
That is not a very appealing picture, but the image reflects the humility and selflessness of a true servant. Those serving the most high God, similar to what Jesus said, realize they do not go to their company to be served – but to serve, no matter what undesirable things come their way. Ironically, this quality makes for a leader that employees trust and will follow anywhere.
Here are just a sampling of thoughts the Bible offers about servanthood – and leadership:
Service precedes greatness. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
Leadership demands putting others first. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Humility is a primary leadership quality. “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).
“Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:19).
The best leaders recognize different gifts and abilities – their own and others. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently” (Romans 12:6-8).
Until next week!
Adapted with permission from an article by Randal Walti, a business consultant who resides in Melbourne, Florida, U.S.A. He is the author of the e-mail newsletter, “Business Life Today.” His web site is www.buslifetoday.com. Copyright 2010, Integrity Resource Center, Inc.
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