One of the keys to living out our faith at work is to serve those we work with. This is a rich principle for us to follow as we strive to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Sometimes, we can misconstrue what it means to truly serve, and become doormats to those around us. Allowing someone to run over you is not servant leadership, it is passivity. In Matthew 21, when the moneychangers in the temple were dealing dishonestly, Jesus dealt swiftly with them and threw all of them out of the temple. Consider these five myths as you think about what it means to be a servant leader:
1. I must always say “yes” if someone asks for help. Remember, every “yes” you give is a “no” to something else. Measure your trade off. If you have the margin, go for it! If you don’t, what will it take the place of and does this honor your commitments to more important priorities?
2. I need to overlook the injustice in my workplace. You might believe this as a supervisor, peer, or subordinate. Bosses need to hold their teams accountable. Subordinates need to speak up when they see something that is bringing harm to the company or another individual. Peers need to help each other become stronger.
3. I shouldn’t speak out when I disagree. This is a tough one. It is so hard to speak out when it seems everyone else has it all figured out. It is much easier to simply sit there, nod your head and ignore your conviction. There is no integrity in this. It demonstrates a lack of transparency. You could be ignoring a prompting from the Holy Spirit to be the bold voice in the room. You may not be the only one who disagrees – others may be too intimidated to speak out against the prevailing idea. You should never be rude or disrespectful, but be courageous and loving when you don’t agree with someone. Rather than saying, “You’re wrong…” ask, “Have you thought about…?”
4. I should overlook poor performance. This can be tough for managers especially. If you have someone who is not pulling their weight you may not be sure what to do. They can feel like the anchor holding the whole team back from excelling. You need to address this quickly and in a loving manner. Jesus never held back when the disciples disappointed him, but counseled them with love, sometimes even tough love (Matthew 26:40).
5. I have to treat everyone exactly the same. Another way this shows up is thinking it’s not okay to favor one person over another when handing out an assignment, or acknowledge one person’s strength over another. It can also be similar to the previous trap where you ignore poor performance because you don’t want your co-workers to think you’re a mean person. You just want to be nice to everyone. It’s okay to acknowledge strengths on your team and assign projects accordingly. Always take note of your motive for giving someone favor. Does it come from a desire to serve your company, or a desire to impress someone and gain favor with them?
Being a servant leader is one of the greatest ways we live out our faith at work. Don’t let it get in the way of being courageous and just. One of the best ways we serve others is being authentic in the difficult situations.