My sorority has a phrase that they use in regard to officer positions. In Pi Beta Phi we practice “servant leadership.” If you haven’t heard this phrase before, it is a bit of a head-scratcher. “Servant” and “leader” by definition could not be more different. But that, dear friends, is the whole point. Pi Phi discovered long ago that they didn’t want typical leaders. They wanted servant leaders. Servant leaders are people who seek leadership positions because they have a desire to quite literally, serve. The position is sought not for power or glory, but because of a desire to help, to put in time and effort, and to contribute your gifts and talents to the greater good. You see yourself as a servant, not as someone that is greater than others. You don’t gain power so that others can give to you. Rather, you are trusted with a position where your power comes from all that you have to give.
I have watched many leaders from student council treasurers, to bad bosses, to politicians fail because they don’t understand this concept. They talk more than they listen, preach more than they practice. They don’t understand what it means to serve. Because Pi Beta Phi came along at such a formidable time in my life, I always associated the phrase “servant leadership” with Pi Phi only. Recently, however, it has popped up in other places in my life.
After a colleague ruined my day with unkind words and a lording of their power over me my sister sent me the following passage from the bible: “For am I seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” While I have been a practicing Catholic my entire life, I had never read this passage, nor had I ever associated my faith with being a servant. While this may be off-putting to some, because I have such a positive connotation for servant-hood due to my experience with Pi Phi, I loved the idea that I was a servant of Christ. In fact, it felt like an honor. I would love to be His servant!
I do not need the approval of that cruel person at work because I am not seeking their approval. I seek only to serve Christ by being his servant, by putting the gifts He gave me out into the world. That is my mission, that is my honor, that is my duty.
I was only more affirmed in this belief when I watched the Superbowl on Sunday. I am sure that only other fellow Christians noticed (because you know they didn’t write about it in the papers, it’s not “cool” enough) that every Eagles player they interviewed gave all the credit to God. Did you notice? The interviewers asked how they felt and the first words out of their mouths, which didn’t even grammatically correctly answer the question were “all the Glory to God.” Over and over the players spoke giving credit to their relationship with Jesus, with His blessings, with the strength He gave them and His plan. I was shocked! And then, I realized, I was actually not at all surprised. This only proved what I knew to be true: these men practice servant-hood.
If you watch how those men played that game, you know this to be true. Nick Foles is literally being called “Saint Nick” and when it was all over he didn’t ask for credit, he didn’t toot his own horn. He gave all the glory to God and then he held his baby girl and kissed her darling little head while she played with the cross around her neck. You know what happens when your leader doesn’t need the glory? He inspires you to lead in your own way. You know what happens when your leader doesn’t need to be the shining star? He can catch a touchdown during a trick play because he doesn’t need to be the guy that threw it.
I watched the replays of the whole game. I watched each humble touchdown on the part of the Eagles and I watched the obnoxious gyrating of the Patriots when they scored and realized: the Patriots don’t know how to be servants. They don’t know how to serve. They only know how to seek praise, glory, and rings. My dad’s best friend Mike has an expression: you can do great things if you don’t care who gets the credit. The Eagles learned that, and it paid off in spades. Spades, and a Superbowl win. Not bad for some guys that are just “servants.”
If you will, take today and see if you can wrap your head around the idea that being a servant is actually the coolest role that you can ever play. The idea that you have something to give? And that if you do, if you give completely without any expectation that you will get credit or merit or atta girls (and this is coming from someone that looooooooves her atta girls!) that greatness can come? It is an incredibly powerful thought. How can you serve?