More Than Just Words That We Forget
In a servant leadership culture we learn by choice or example that if we want to be great, we have to serve others respectfully.” ― Vern Dosch
Before you get turned off thinking that this is a political post, let me tell you two things. It is not. However, all my posts are in some way political. Politics is very much part of my make up. Just as being professional is, likewise pastoral. These form part of what I have described in a thesis as my 4 P’s. As promised before, one day this will be expanded on.
For today, however, with the recent election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States as the backdrop, let us talk about servant leadership.
Servant Leadership Rewind
Three years ago, almost to the date to be exact, my post was on this very subject. This is a revision and update of that post. It is still relevant despite the fact that we are almost at the end of the Easter holidays. This post was first published on Maundy Thursday but servant leadership has no special day or season.
My face was smooching the computer screen trying to get one more thing done that day. The year was 2014 and life had taken me back to Jamaica several months earlier. Unknown to me in that moment was that my stay was going to be only five months. I also did not know that it was coming to an end in a few weeks.
Four hours had passed since someone had dropped me off at a client’s house. While on the island, to help my cash flow, I had taken on small gigs. This was to have been a two-hour one but little of what I had asked to be prepared was done.
The good thing was and is that I love being on electronic-communication devices. The hours melded into one without me realizing. Even ‘better’, I really love helping and serving others, especially those who respect and honour me with their generous portion of unconditional love.
It Was Baffling At First
Servant leadership is a term that at first baffled me. We first met soon after I became a member of a United Church of Canada congregation here in Alberta. This was in 2003 or thereabouts. The minister of this church was a lesbian, married to her partner of many years. She was one of the best I had to pleasure to hear preach since migrating to Canada.
Her sexuality is important here only because of the understanding of “servant leadership.” This was almost 15 years ago now. Alberta’s Premier at the time was dead set against passing the law permitting gay marriages. Imagine my confusion then, still bearing a rambunctious rebel inside of me, hearing this soft-spoken woman talking about serving the community in love, peace and with a focus on unity. The same community that many would not support her undying love for her partner?!
Delving into “The Servant Leader” book by Ken Blanchard and attending a couple of workshops, I soon got it. Since then, I have hardly looked back. Of course there are people and situations that neither being the servant or leader of is appealing to me. You might have misread if you thought I said I became Jesus.
Still striving towards a deeper “being” of a servant-leader, my operating understanding of the nomenclature is simply this: “We have all been called to be foot-washers.” R. Alan Woods
Jesus was the ‘biggest’ foot-washer in known history. Mary of Bethany, according to the Gospel of John, also did a similar act when she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.
Claudette (Moi) is more on the level of the “unknown woman, who was a sinner.” She is the one in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, anointed them and dried them with her hair.
Servant leadership, to me, embraces giving respect to others. How do you do that? Well Mollie Marti said it right: “The utmost form of respect is to give sincerely of your presence.”
With The Utmost Form Of Respect
Going back to Easter 2014 and my non-computer and Internet savvy client. I could have gone in, done my two hours, collect my money and be out of there. Would I have served her? Would I have given her the “utmost form of respect?”
When you tell someone you will be there for them, that you are their friend, that you have their backs but you disappear when they need you; reappearing only when it is convenient for you – is that being “sincerely present?”
What about the leader who tells a community or group of people that he or she will be there for them, have their interests at heart and promise to serve those interests and do not? Has the utmost respect been given?
Take the words spoken from political platforms across the world. Rhetoric that convinces people that said politician will work to help make the nation “great again.” Months later, the ‘reality’ is far from that as ‘greatness’ seems only the purview for one class of people – the super rich. Is that giving respect to all?
You know the answer. It is not.
Let It Begin In You
It took me a few years to truly learn foot-washing and there is an art to it. You have to balance your service with a strong sense of knowing who you are. Without the latter, there is a high risk of being a footstool.
Republishing this post today was deliberate – on the day that it is believe that Jesus resurrected. Whatever your religious association or spiritual path, let us remember Jesus’, Mary’s and the “unknown woman’s” act of servant-leadership.
Hard as it might be as countries and groups around the world tout insularity and nationalism, get your wash bowl, your oil of Love and begin washing some feet – starting with your own. Tread gently, see all and help however you can. It might be one person’s a day, a week, a month but wash some feet!