by David Wraight

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Mark 10:43, 44

In his book, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Jim Collins states “the practice of leadership is not the same as the exercise of power. If I put a loaded gun to your head, I can get you to do things you might not otherwise do, but I’ve not practiced leadership; I’ve exercised power. True leadership exists only if people follow when they have the freedom not to.”

In this statement Collins is highlighting the difference between “sovereign” command-and-control leadership and the alternative “servant” or “shared” leadership model. In the context of the process of renewal that God has taken YFC through over recent years, the ego-centric and controlling sovereign leadership style is simply no longer appropriate.

The sovereign leader is a person who knows (or is supposed to know) more than anyone else in the ministry. They are the “expert” and all decisions and directional input comes from them. The sovereign leader is reluctant to share ‘too much’ information with others and therefore are the only one who possess the larger perspective on the ministry and its direction. Being in charge and alone, the leader focuses too much on control, inhibiting any input from “below”. Collective problem solving is discouraged. Talented and progressive individuals are seen as a threat and therefore the talents of many remained untapped. The sovereign leader smothers initiative and induces passivity or frustration and ultimately rebellion.

The problems associated with the sovereign style of leadership are many, but they are particularly evident in the complex world that we live in today. Today, the bulk of knowledge about the youth community – and the most effective means of reaching, serving and communicating with this community – is not at the top of the ministry, but at all levels where leaders and staff interact with young people. To be effective, these ministry leaders and staff must take greater responsibility for thinking, planning, initiating, and doing. The time when everyone should look to one leader for direction is over.

In contrast to the sovereign leader, the servant leader encourages and fosters shared responsibility, a tangible vision and mutual influence. The servant leader builds a team around them. They invite others to ‘share the throne’, to see what the leader sees. The servant leader does away with traditional notions of sole responsibility and control to induce greater acceptance of responsibility and initiative by their team members and others in leadership roles in the ministry. They love their team members and empower them to reach their full potential in Christ.

The implications of servant/shared leadership are profound. Passivity is not tolerated. No one can say: “That is the leader’s responsibility, not mine.” Everyone is expected to seize opportunities, correct problems, and hold each other accountable. This makes everyone a leader, responsible for the character development, integrity, initiative and performance of each team member, not just control over those below. It enlarges the ownership of the vision and mission for everyone.

I believe that the key component of effective Kingdom ministry in the church and in the world is servant-hearted, Godly leadership characterized by humility, generosity, love, compassion and selflessness.

May God enable us all to be truly servant-hearted leaders.

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