This is a guest post by Dan Behnke. He is the founder of Mentor a Child and a case manager for Camelot Community Care. Dan and his lovely wife, Ashley, serve as key leaders at Shoreline Church in Austin, Texas.
When I think of leadership, I think of a quality or characteristic that most people desire in their life. We see people that possess confidence and an ability to lead others and we become inspired. For some people it seems to come more natural than for others. What makes them stand out? Leading by example and servant leadership are what I feel makes these individuals shine.
Leading by example is a characteristic I believe anybody can obtain and live out. Those good at leading this way often have integrity, good character and humility. They live a life in such a way that others observe and want to mirror. I had the opportunity to teach a life lesson to a foster child simply by my example. This particular child had a history of stealing from convenient stores and foster parents. We were ordering food at a McDonald’s one day when the cashier gave us too much change. I called the cashier back over and returned the money as it was not mine. I had a chance to discuss this with the boy and he understood what I was trying to teach him. Hopefully in the future he will observe more examples by adults. Hopefully the examples he witnesses will make such an impression on his life that he’ll make healthier choices. We are constantly being watched by our kids, spouse, friends, employer and co-workers. Though we are not perfect, others find attributes in us that they adapt to whether they are aware of it or not. Simply leading by example can be world-changing and can help re-direct the course of others’ lives. Jesus is the ultimate example.
Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be imitators of God, live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” In short, we look like Jesus because we are looking at Jesus. We get life from Him and then manifest that life to others.
Servant leadership is very similar. We lead by serving others instead of exerting power over them. Wherever we go, whomever we come into contact with, our life should stand out and look uncommon. In a quiet office building on a Monday morning, you’d be surprised at what a friendly greeting and opening a door does to a person. Putting the needs of others before your own will always look different in this world because our earthly flesh will always pull us to do what is best for ourselves. We should always attempt to resist the temptation to ask what’s in it for me, my family, my tribe or my nation. But ask, what’s in it for the kingdom of God? How can we love and serve our small group? How can we help the woman with an unplanned pregnancy? How can we come under and serve the homeless man that we drive by each day. These are all kingdom of God questions that we can answer if we only choose to be a servant leader.
Matthew 20:25-28: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Philippians 2:3-8: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.
When you ask most people if they would prefer to do public speaking, they probably would decline the opportunity. It’s not something that comes naturally for most people. What separates them from those that speak with boldness.
Identity and self-esteem play an important role in a person believing they can lead or overcome situations. When we believe that our identity is found in what our culture deems as important (appearance, job, talents, and what peers say about us), we buy into a false sense of confidence. When we realize that our self-worth and identity comes from heaven above, we believe that His strength, His power, and His Plan elevates our awareness of the gifts he has bestowed upon us. Only then can we fully use our leadership gifts to the fullest.