Leadership as a Call to Service–Leading by Serving

Pope Francis in his homily during the inauguration Mass in 2013, celebrating the beginning of his papacy, spoke about leadership as service. It is this service to others that was the focus of my two previous books on leadership, in which I reflect on the ten core characteristics of servant leadership in relation to the leadership practices of the four women doctors of the Catholic Church – Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualisation, Foresight, Stewardship, Commitment to the Growth of People and Building Community (Spears, 1998).

Dave Ramsey in his essay Leading Is Serving (cited in Ken Blanchard & Renee Broadwell, 2018:196), maintains that the servant part of servant Leadership can be a problem: “When some leaders hear servant, they think subservient.” However, Ramsey (ibid.) quickly discounts this assumption and emphasises the strength needed by servant leaders in their service to others. He compares this strength to that displayed by Jesus when he met with the Sanhedrin, prior to being taken before Pilate (Luke 22:63-67), and on a separate occasion when the “moneychangers” desecrated the temple, which Jesus described as His Father’s house (Luke 19:46). Yet, while having the confidence, strength and even anger to confront behaviour that was unacceptable, Jesus also had the humility to wash his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20), and the love to suffer and pay the ultimate price for that love by offering his life for humanity (1 John 3:16). The seven pillars of servant leadership comprise: Person of Character; Puts People First; Skilled Communicator; Compassionate Collaborator; Has Foresight; Systems Thinker, Leads with Moral Authority (Sipe & Frick, 2015).