How to be a More Effective Servant Leader

by | Feb 18, 2016

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how to lead a project when you don’t know what you’re doing. One observation in the feedback stuck with me: what do you do if you don’t have a boss like Abraham?

As a refresher, in Genesis 24 Abraham tasked his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant was successful, and he provides a good model for faithfulness to God and to his boss (Abraham) in carrying out a difficult and high-stakes assignment.

But Abraham was key to that success as well. He provided clear direction to his servant on what success looked like and he resourced his servant to complete the project. In fact, clear direction was the first key to project success that we called out in the blog.

This raises two big questions for leaders. How can we lead more like Abraham? And what do we do if we don’t have a boss like Abraham?

How to lead more like Abraham – give clear direction:

  • Clearly define the outcomes you expect
  • Clearly define how success will be measured
  • Clearly define how to achieve the objective – have the project owner contribute ideas to this if possible
  • Have the project owner summarize the conversation: the outcome, how they’ll achieve it, and how they’ll know if they’re successful

But what if you’re the project owner and your boss isn’t a servant leader like Abraham?

Then serve your boss by initiating a conversation that leads to the clarity you need.

Lead the conversation by getting his or her perspective on outcomes, how success will be measured, and how to achieve the objective. Contribute your ideas as appropriate, and summarize the conversation back to your leader. The initiative will be appreciated, and you’ll be on a much clearer path to project success.

Whether you are the leader with a title or not, you have a responsibility to serve. Taking the time and energy upfront to ensure that there is clarity of expectations of success is a powerful and practical way to serve at work.

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Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey is the Chief Operating Officer for Workmatters and Director of Workmatters Institute. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas (2006, Economics and Political Science), and alumnus of Teach for America. He realized a passion for integrating faith and work while at Northstar Partnering Group (now Field Agent™) and subsequently co-founded the Workmatters Institute in 2010, joining Workmatters to lead the Institute full time in 2013.