What's the Secret to Effective Leadership?

Leaders come in different shapes and sizes. Some are responsible for hundreds of people, while others have two or three direct reports. Some are in a role of “Mom” or “Dad”. Some leaders have incredible influence of processes, customers and culture, but may not have anyone who calls them, "boss". What if there was a secret to serving in these leadership roles that would increase your effectiveness?

Unfortunately there is no pill to take or deal you can make that guarantees your success as a leader. It actually comes down to a choice, and you’re the only one that can make it. How you answer this question will dictate to which level of effectiveness you will rise to in your leadership role. And this is the question: “Am I a self-serving leader or a servant leader?” Let me say it another way - am I looking out for my best interests, or do I leverage my own self and resources so that others might grow, flourish, and succeed?

In positions of leadership, we are often given incredible authority and responsibility. For some, this results in an overextended ego and pride that misuses power and creates a culture of fear for those below him/her. The leadership role becomes an avenue to benefit one person - the leader. Behind them often is a wake of destruction, chaos and confusion.

If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
— Abraham Lincoln

If you find yourself in a leadership role today at work, home, or your community, and you desire to be effective: it can no longer be about you.

We find a powerful story regarding servant leadership in the Bible. Jesus is gathering with his disciples for a meal in John 13. It was customary to that a servant would wash the feet of the guests as the roads were dirt and they were most likely wearing sandals. So picture these disciples and Jesus gathering together. After a while, there begins to be quiet discussions amongst them of who will perform this lowly duty of washing the feet. The question becomes, “Who of us is the lowest on the ladder?”

As the tension in the room builds, Jesus rises from the table. Now, this is a man whom these disciples believe to be the Son of God. I picture the room getting very still and the attention of every eye being on Christ. He goes over and grabs a towel and a basin. Out of the stillness comes the sound of water being poured into the basin. He comes back to the table and kneels at the feet of the first disciple and begins to wash their feet.

It’s one thing for a person to humble themselves and serve another. It’s another thing for a teacher to serve his disciples. It’s completely preposterous to think that the One who spoke the world into existence knelt down and lowered himself to wash the feet of these men. And yet - he did. It was as though serving was a natural outflow of his authority. He did it willingly, freely and often.

What authority do you currently have today? Who is looking to you for leadership? What would it look like to view your leadership role(s) as a servant leader? It may not look like washing feet (at least not literally), but I want to challenge you for the the next few weeks to see the leadership opportunities you have as avenues to serve others. 

Can you imagine following a leader that is as interested in my personal well-being, growth, and advancement as they are their own? Can you picture coming to work for someone who I know has my best interest in mind and who is willing to leverage their resources so that I am able to perform at my best?

What is keeping you from making this a reality for those that look to you for leadership?

Let’s bring this home for a minute. Can you imagine a family where the parent(s) have a clear vision for the type of family they want to become and they continually pursue the hearts of their spouse and/or children (whichever applies to you)? Can you envision them coming alongside their kids and dreaming with them the type of young man or young woman they are wanting to become, and then going out of their way to help them along the journey? I ask again, if you have a leadership role at home, what is keeping your from making this a reality for those that you come home to?

Effective leaders find their success in their ability to serve others, and by doing so, drawing out the very best in them. Whether you want to apply this at home or at work, my challenge to you is to use whatever leadership position and authority you have been given and use it to invest in the lives of those you are leading.

I recently read the book, The Secret, by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. They have some great thoughts on what it takes to SERVE. Servant leadership is a daily decision that must be made in order for your leadership to be effective, and it’s one we are going to deal with over the next few weeks. Here is what we will discuss:






An insecure leader must have a title & position. A secure leader will just pick up a towel. And wash feet.
— Chris Brown, Teaching Pastor, North Coast Church