the heART of leadership.

When I was in high school, my friend Penny introduced me to her grandfather. As I shook his hand, I remember his scent of musty peppermint filling my nostrils. It was a pleasant smell. The way grandfathers should smell. He was an eloquent and intriguing man. His eyes shimmered with purpose, his movements were graceful, and he had a soft whistle that would roll off his tongue every time he would verbalize a word that ended with the letter “s.”

It wasn’t until a couple years after our initial introduction that I sat with Penny’s grandfather for supper and tapped his treasure chest of wisdom and business experience. One statement he shared introduced me to the notion of servant leadership. His voice lowered as it acquired a rhythmic intensity salted with sincerity. I took a purposeful breath as he said, “If you desire to find success, be a man of character and integrity; live your life as a servant of Jesus.”

The paradigm clicked. I am not to find success in order to bring glory to God; I am to bring glory to God to find fulfillment, which reframes the definition of success. And what better way to bring Him an offering of worship, to bring glory to Him, than to follow Christ’s ultimate illustration? To the world, this philosophy is mistakenly identified as bondage, but to the Christ-follower, it is accepted as freedom.

This attitude of servant leadership is relevant not only within the life of an individual but also in regards to the administrative techniques of a business. A servant leader is a person of wisdom. He is an astute steward of his organization’s human, fiscal, and physical capital. His leadership style is compassionate, yet firm. And he defines success not merely in terms of monetary gain or results, but places an equal emphasis on the importance of value-added relationship building to create long-term success.

This combined concentration of results and relationships are a rejuvenating force in today’s global marketplace, cultivating an environment of sustainability. Employees are encouraged and challenged to share the same vision of success. In doing so, a bond of unity is fashioned. Employees begin to feel like family, not just co-workers. They find enjoyment in their job. They stumble upon happiness. And as a result, companies like Chick-fil-A have recorded “an annual retention rate of 97 percent,” (Blanchard & Miller, 2007).

When employees feel as if they are a part of something greater than themselves, they will imitate the sentiments of their leader, which ushers in the law of reflection. In physics 101, a professor will teach his students that when a ray of light strikes an average mirror, the light ray will reflect off the mirror. Reflection involves a change in direction of that light ray. This concept is true of business and taught by Christ. What materializes internally is reflected externally. If an employee feels valued by his organization, he will make a customer feel valued by the organization. And it is this perceived value that arguably entices customer loyalty, which in turn has the authority to transform the marketplace locally, nationally, and globally.

I know now that servant leadership has become the distinction between two firms selling the exact same product. As a firm’s vitality has become more than just the sale of a product or service, it has become the sale of an emotional attachment built on the doctrines of integrity and trustworthiness. Perhaps this is the secret to success harnessed by some of the world’s greatest servant leaders.

Oh you want to tell your story but you don’t know where to start / Well, your mother’s pretty lonely but she don’t have a heart / And you met the rich and famous and they’re screwed up the same / Even “love will tear us apart” don’t ease the pain

There indeed is a growing uncertainty during this worldwide economic crisis. It is a plight that has emerged and universally affects even the greatest of nations. Many countries are laden with hefty debts, stagnant economies, and extraordinary unemployment.

The United States is not without its own entanglements that need be resolved. Our leaders have spent trillions of dollars in hopes to combat this state of economy. There have been many ideas of thought ranging from spending programs to budget cuts. Yet we find the economy in decline, families struggling to provide a stable income, and individuals surviving paycheck to paycheck.

From observation, there seems to be plenty of reporting regarding the effects the economy has on certain societal classes. Sadly, it seems a hostile jealousy is being cultivated between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

A current example would be the recent class warfare encouraged by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They claim, as “a leaderless resistance” of a diverse group of individuals, to represent “the 99%” of people, which will no longer tolerate “the greed and corruption of the 1%,” (Occupy Wall Street, 2012). While they may have noteworthy ideals, their thinking is humanistic, rather than biblical, as they falsely premise that those who are wealthy purposefully suppress the poor.

Born out of what could be argued as their own greed and corruption, the Occupy movement has adopted an attitude of entitlement. Purporting, with a Robin Hood mentality, that the poor have a right to what the rich have earned. Instead of being responsible and seeking a respectful solution, they childishly shift the blame of their own economic frustrations through vices of vengeance and hatred.

But the irony remains. A world corrupted by sinful humanity seeks a self-serving humanistic explanation. To an unbeliever, the hurt and pain they face is a direct response to the fear they feel when they realize their hope, their wealth, is not enough to guarantee a stable and secure future.

As Christians, we need to sympathize with the suffering that these individuals face because an accurate assessment of the situation reveals that the real issue is not the deficit of their pocketbooks, but the deficit in their hearts.

And it is this revelation that suggests opportunity – an opportunity to love, to teach, and to proclaim the Gospel. For until the unbeliever recognizes that there is no hope outside of the God of Israel (Psalm 130:7) they will continue to live in fear and desperation.

This Truth is conveyed through an intentional conviction that we are to live our lives as a worship offering to Jesus Christ by ending any personal hypocrisy. We are called not to merely be hearers of the Word, but doers. It will be through our actions that an authentic faith will be revealed if we trust God at His Word and believe that He keeps His promises (Psalm 18:30), including the assurance that our needs will be met (Matthew 6:26).

Once we recognize that the heart of the issue is the issue of the heart, we can liberate ourselves from any perverse hope and unwarranted fear. This does not mean, as Christians, we will be removed from financial trial or tribulation, as we still are affected by the economic woes facing humanity. But we can seek biblical wisdom on such topics as finances, education, investment, and giving to prepare ourselves as astute stewards of the resources God has blessed us with.