Whatever your reasons for celebrating this time of year, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of us recognize this as a season of giving. Giving presents, our time, possibly some hugs, often good wishes, money, you name it.
Pope Francis (who happens to personify a servant attitude himself) chose this season to announce that Mother Teresa will be canonized, becoming Saint Teresa. Her life is a perpetual refrain of serving others. And through this example, she has become a world-changing leader in her humble, moving way.
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” observed Max DePree, former company chairman and founder of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership. “The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu said it differently, but with no less impact: “If you want to govern people, you must place yourself below them.”
And as Christmas day approaches, we’re reminded of the characteristically humble birth of the ultimate servant leader. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant,” Jesus said in Matthew 20:26.
With these words and more, He relentlessly rejected the worldly symbols of power. And yet, He has been remembered and celebrated above so many forgotten leaders who sought to position themselves as superior to those they led (read: served).
For some, the “holidays” aren’t about Christmas, and for some, they aren’t about any religious belief system at all. But whatever your personal principles, you can learn a great deal from these great servant leaders of the past.
As you think of giving and serving this year, try out this “Christmas mind-set” in your current role:
- The marketing manager: “How do we give value?” instead of “How do we get more sales?”
- The teacher: “How do I encourage students?” versus “How do I get tenure?”
- The salesman: “How do I enhance my customers’ experience” instead of “How do I make a bigger bonus?”
- The pastor: “How do we help our flock?” rather than “How do we grow membership?”
- The political official: “How do I fulfill needs?” versus “How do I get elected?”
- The organization leader: “How do I serve the team?” versus “How do I drive the results I want?”
What better time to give these attitudes a try, than during this season of giving? (Although it’s an attitude that will serve you well the whole year through.)