It is once again that time of year when Christians reflect on the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ and what those sacrifices mean to them. As a servant leader, Jesus modeled leadership traits and qualities for followers to emulate in their own lives. One of the most poignant lessons of leadership to be drawn from Christ’s ministry is the importance and necessity of servant leaders to sacrifice for the greater good. Truly successful and inspiring leaders must be willing to make several types of sacrifices in order to elevate their people and see their visions come to fruition. Let’s briefly look at three key areas where sacrifices must often be made for leaders to achieve their goals.
Time and Energy
Effective leaders are completely invested in the success of their missions. While financial investments may also be necessary at certain points in a venture, nothing is as essential to successfully achieving a goal as devoting time and attention to the endeavor. Investments in hours and effort cannot be recouped in the same manner as money either, making this type of sacrifice more personally costly in many ways. However, leaders who truly desire to succeed need to be willing to make these sacrifices, for nothing great is ever achieved through negligence, laziness, and inattentiveness. The leader must communicate this to his or her team by modeling conscientious and diligent behaviors that will lead to desired outcomes.
Power and Freedom
While many people equate leadership to power and autonomy, the truth is that oftentimes a leader has to give up these things for the good of the group. For instance, leaders in today’s world frequently find it necessary to include others in the decision-making process to maintain good relationships with team members and to keep morale up. Effective leaders know that they will get better results from associates who are personally invested in the success of a project than ones who are dictated to or coerced into performing, so sharing power benefits both the leader and the team even though it may be somewhat difficult or uncomfortable for the executive to do initially.
Likewise, administrators and leaders take on many responsibilities for their organizations or enterprises, and there is a correlation between the number of responsibilities one has and the amount of personal freedom one enjoys. Simply put, leaders who take on more responsibilities can expect to have fewer personal freedoms. Their duties demand attention, and they find that they must sacrifice personal autonomy for the sake of the organization and mission. This is precisely why so many people would never want to be President of the United States; they know the enormous responsibilities of the office would greatly diminish their rights to privacy and personal freedoms.
Blame and Credit
Outstanding leaders understand the seemingly paradoxical and unfair nature of accepting blame and giving credit. True servant leaders realize that ultimately credit for successes most go to those who helped make the successes possible, and they must be publicly recognized for their efforts if peace and harmony is to continue among the contributors. There is no I in team, after all, at least not until something goes wrong.
Once something does go wrong, however, the team typically expects the leader to take responsibility for the failure, and the leader must be willing to accept criticism by saying, “I am to blame; the failure lies with me.” The converse nature of this reality may not appear fair to those in charge, but they usually must be willing to accept these circumstances as a price of leadership in order to secure prospects of future success and cohesion because shifting blame to associates will only undermine subsequent endeavors. Good leaders will privately work to fix the problems within the organization while publicly acknowledging the failures and accepting the blame.
Gospel readers will easily recognize how these excellent traits of servant leadership were modeled by Jesus Christ. Leadership is not about wielding power and strong-arming others into action. Real leadership requires sacrifice, and understanding this is the first step towards becoming an effective servant leader.