“The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”—Jesus in Matthew 23:11-12
Being humble, like Jesus, does not make us weaker. It makes us stronger. One of Jesus’ most powerful lessons to the Twelve, as he was training them to be his servant-leaders, was when he got down on his knees and washed their feet (John 13). The true, Jesus-trained leader goes and does likewise.
Trusted servants, trained by Jesus, strive to meet the needs of others first. We interviewed one of our seasoned leaders and asked her to share some of her experiences as a servant-leader.
One of the most striking things that she said is that to be a strong leader is to be strong in the Lord. “Without Christ,” she says, “we can do nothing that lasts.” In answering the following questions, she explained what she means.
How does a trusted servant within SAF strive to meet the needs of others first?
“A leader is responsible for the well-being of the people entrusted to him or her. Such a leader needs to pay attention and be in tune with what the Holy Spirit says.
“A leader is a helper. A true servant-leader accepts as a priority to help people grow, to enable people to reach their best. As a leader, you do not seek your own success, because your role is to help people excel in the role that God has given them. I had to learn to be happy in the success of others, to encourage them, and to prefer them over myself.
“To be a strong leader is not to hold on to the power you have, but to give that power away. We all love power in one way or another. But we have to deny that desire before we can rightly use it. This is a spiritual discipline that you have to exercise daily.”
Why is ‘walking the recovery talk’ essential to SA leaders and how does the Formation of Servants (12-step program for SA staff) serve that goal?
“The Formation of Servants is the equalizer among everybody, because it shows that leaders have a mix of strengths and weaknesses, like anybody else. Walking the recovery talk for SA leaders means that they come to realize that their heart is not often in tune with God’s ways. To be a strong leader is to be strong in the Lord.”
How do you envision Formation of Servants benefiting other organizations beyond SAF?
“The Formation of Servants is really a tool that helps leaders become disciples of Christ. Their organization is their school, where they learn how to serve. It will benefit any organization, whose leaders are humble enough to recognize that without Christ they can do nothing, no matter how skilled they are.”
How does the Principle of Anonymity guard and guide servant leaders in SAF?
“This principle helps us to reflect on the pitfall of fame and vain-glory. The benefit of respecting this principle for the leadership is that it doesn’t allow competition among servants. In this way, the unity of the community is safeguarded. Everyone has a role to play and no one is lifted up more than another.
“Servant leaders also realize that everyone desires to be remembered. However, it is better for others to speak well of us than for us to be pridefully making a name for ourselves.
“As well, when the Principle of Anonymity is applied to the women we serve, it preserves their dignity, which we must safeguard on their behalf at all costs.”
What happens when personalities are raised above principles?
“I like to contemplate James 2 that deals with treating everyone the same way. Reflecting on the fruit of the Spirit, we learn to practice 1 Corinthians 13, which tells us how to love our neighbour.
“I have learned in my personal life that whether I like my neighbour or not, I must erase all prejudices that I feel toward them, and treat them all equally with dignity. I may not like what they do, but I have to remember that they are made in the image of God.
“As a leader of an organization, I must not lift up those I feel are important in my own eyes, because they could contribute to the organization’s well-being. Again, only God provides for the needs of his organizations, and chooses people that I may have never chosen myself, to build and develop his programs and services to the women we serve.
“This principle helps us maintain a heart free from idol-worship.”
She said a lot more in her interview, but this gives you a sense of what we mean by strong leadership. It’s all about becoming a servant, being strong in the Lord rather than depending on our own genius or the adoration of others. It’s all about freeing ourselves from idols. It’s all about steadfastness to God and imitating his faithfulness.