Catalog of Errors II: Rehabilitating “Servant Leader”

I used to think servant leader could, with the right emphasis, be rehabilitated. That’s because I was naive and assumed that the phrase had meant something biblically supportable at the point of its origin. I now believe that was nothing more than a misguided wish on my part, and I am rightfully ashamed I ever argued that anyone ought to try to rehabilitate a thing back into something it never was to begin with. It can’t be done.

Servant leadership is even worse than the almost total emphasis on servant. In contemporary use, leader does not mean the one who commands. For example: In today’s world you can be a leader in the field of sanitation. That doesn’t mean you command another to clean trashcans and toilets. It means you are the one to do it. Above you there is a servant who provides you with janitorial supplies and a list of restrooms–the tools of leadership–in exchange for pay.

I’ve consumed essays, books, podcasts, and sermons on leadership and not one of them said among their hundreds of thousands of words that to be a leader is to make decisions and then deliver commands to subordinates. That is an astonishing contrast to the historic use of leader; so much so that the past must become unrecognizable.

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16 thoughts on “Catalog of Errors II: Rehabilitating “Servant Leader”

  1. According to the Army, leadership means taking responsibility over a group of people in order to provide them with direction, motivation and purpose.

    Try doing that with a wife and kids these days.

  2. Cane-

    Yes.

    Leadership now means you DO something really well (showing “leadership”)

    But it is YOU who are doing. You are not in charge if anything.

    You lead by example. You are a leader in your field, etc.

  3. The word servant in scripture is literally “slave.” The word lord in scripture is literally “master.”

    Every good ruler serves the needs of his subjects. This does not mean he is a slave.

  4. @Scott

    Head Nigga In Charge

    Man, the Army must be REALLY PC these days.

    (And that’s two Morgan Freeman appearances on this blog in one day.)

  5. I cannot say that I was ever really attached to the term. Might have been the fact I wasn’t paying attention, might have been the circles I ran in. Does make me think, though.

  6. Pingback: Masculine Monday- To Command And Obey | Donal Graeme

  7. Pingback: You Are Probably Alone at Church | Things that We have Heard and Known

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