Servant Leadership in the Service of Eternity
Robert Greenleaf (1970) introduces his work by citing Albert Camus when he states hope “is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history” (p. 5). From this, he proceeds to explain that in order to continue the negation and also expand the frontier of civility and propriety that it is most effectively done by a leader who serves and shows others the way to live that out (Greenleaf, 1970, p. 9). Some are blessed to have throughout their lives an individual whom they have come across and experienced, to quote Albert Camus, that on the “foundations of his own sufferings and joys, builds for them all” or, in other words, “by the quality of his inner life that was manifest in his presence, lifted men up and made the journey possible” (Greenleaf, 1970, p. 34). For me, I have had a few individuals that I have known that have lived up to the charge that Greenleaf and Camus lay before their reader — and I have been blessed to have known them. While some of these individuals that I have known have not been family, such as an elder in my church who served with honor and distinction as a test pilot in the United States Air Force, or my pastor Dr. L. Charles Jackson, a man who preached the true gospel, did not search for earthly riches, but in not searching added so much to each and every life he touched, and gave so much to the Kingdom of God. However, not to disqualify or to take away from the aforementioned men, I think more of my grandfather, who has gone to be with the Lord, my father, and also my brother-in-law.
My family was blessed beyond words to have my grandfather, a man who led his family with humility, honor, and a quiet example of what hard work is. The actions, lifestyle, and propriety of my grandfather, my Papou, transferred over to my father, who lives his life in that same honorable way. Both were, in the case of my father are, empathetic, motivating and brought boundless love and effort into their “many involvements” (Greenleaf, 1970, p. 13, 15, 29). Though, personally, one of the most respectable qualities about them was/is their dedication and love to each of their wivesand their living up, unlike so many in our modern society — whether personal or political, to the charge from St. Paul to be
Above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:6–9).
The qualities of my grandfather and my father provided such a model to some members of my family that my sister chose, for her husband, a man, though younger than I am, a person whom I have the utmost respect. He is one of the most humble, decent, kind, hardworking, intelligent men that I have known — even while having every right not to be. He has the touch of Midas. There is nothing that he cannot do or understand; he is a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force who has served on presidential protection details, a graduate of The Ohio State University, and regardless of this, none of it has gone to his head. He treats my sister with the greatest love and respect. He speaks to everyone around him with the fruits of the Spirit. He is someone that people automatically look to for guidance, advice, and leadership. My brother-in-law is someone who, when he goes to be with the Lord, will have a viewing that my grandfather had where the crowd never ended, a kind word in every mouth, and an assurance in every believer’s heart that they will see him again in paradise. My brother-in-law is someone who lives up on a daily basis to the example set by my grandfather and father and is someone that I am proud, happy, and blessed to have in the family and call a brother unreservedly.
My grandfather, my father, and my brother-in-law may have never commanded battalions, run Fortune 500 Companies, or for that matter, led a massive ministry, but what they did and do on a daily basis is personally grow in their faith with Jesus Christ, “love and serve others” — both believers and their neighbors (Horton, 2014). In doing this, they left or currently provide an example to their families of what the outworking of a Christian should be. In closing, these men, my family, are whom Gandalf was speaking about in the Fellowship of the Rings when said that “I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The Servant as Leader. Robert K. Greenleaf Center.
Horton, M. S. (2014). Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World. Zondervan.
New Line Home Entertainment. (2001). The Fellowship of the Ring. United States of America. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
This post is in response to a prompt for graduate school asking “do you know a servant leader” and if so, “what part of that person’s leadership style is most noteworthy and inspiring.”