Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Building Authority: The Greatest Leader Ever

Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must first be the servant...If you choose to lead, you must serve -- Jesus Christ

I am piecing my way through a book given to me by the CEO of the company for which I work. He annually gives his executive staff a book to read, and he was kind enough to give me a copy of this year's book because he knew I would be interested in the subject.

The book is The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principles: How To Become A Servant Leader by James C. Hunter, copyright 2004, published by Crown Business, ISBN:I-4000-5334-X. Below are some powerful excerpts from Chapter 3: On Building Authority.

I have studied mystics and sages from the past and present in my search to uncover the true essence of leadership. Then one day it dawned on me that I should look at what Jesus had to say about leadership. If leadership is about influence, which we know it is, I challenge anyone to name a human being in the history of the world who has had more influence than this one man. Name one who even comes close.

H.G. Wells...atheist, was a harsh critic of Christianity, yet once remarked, "I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as an historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history."

Napoleon Bonaparte put it this way: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love, and at this hour, millions would die for him."

In the book of Matthew...Jesus makes His difinitive statement about leadership [see top of post]. If you cannot grasp the difference between power and authority, you will never understand the point Jesus was trying to make. He did not possess traditional power. Jesus was talking about leading with authority. Legitimate leadership, influence, is built upon serving, sacrificing, and seeking the greatest good of those being led. Influence must be earned.

In my previous work, I detail several examples of great world leaders who had no power but operated from a position of authority and accomplished things that changed the world. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa. Influence, legitimate leadership, is built upon service and sacrifice.

It is simply the "Law of the Harvest"--that is, you reap what you sow. You sow service and sacrifice; you extend yourselves for others and seek their greatest good; you will build influence with them.

...when I mention these great leaders from the past, I sometimes get outburts like, "What am I supposed to do, die for my people like Jesus? Go on a hunger fast like Gandhi? Find some lepers in our cafeteria to help like Mother Teresa? I'm just a supervisor at Sears, for goodness' sake. Give me a break!"

My response..."I use dramtic examples from history to get people's attention. The good news is that anytime we extend ourselves, sacrifice, and serve others, we build authority and thereby influence.

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this truth: "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve...You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

When we are dedicated to identifying and meeting the legitimate needs of others, we will often be put into a position of having to make sacrifices. We may have to sacrifice our ego, our lust for power, our pride, and other self-interests for the greater good. We may have to sacrifice our need to be liked, our bad habits of avoiding conflict, our desire to have all of the answers, to look good, to always be right. ... When we extend ourselves for others, we will be rejected, underappreciated, and even taken advantage of at times. Indeed, we will have to sacrifice and subordinate anything that gets in the way of doing the right thing with and for people.

Anne Frank...said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."


jettybetty said...

Yep, that is really good stuff! I am quite impressed that your CEO chose this book to give!

JMG said...

Legitimate leadership, influence, is built upon serving, sacrificing, and seeking the greatest good of those being led.

If only all leaders realized this principle.

This was a very timely piece for me considering that I will be going back to school in a couple of weeks. It serves as a reminder of how I like to motivate my students to get things done.

How cool that your CEO is having everyone read this! You must be working in the right place.

Tony Arnold said...

Our CEO is great.

Purgatory Penman said...

Teachers, preachers, presidents, and kings would make the world a much better place and their leadership multiple times more productive if they would use these principles. Wouldn't you love to work in a place where the leader applied them?