Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leadership With or Without Servantship?

One of the upside-down things we see developing in Korean society is servant leadership. This type of leadership is increasingly being used by sectors of society, and without any help from the Church. Banks and industry are interested, and many books are published explaining how one can become a servant leader. Bloggers often refer to the term and even the president of Korea has told us he wants to be a servant leader.

It is ironic and very sad to see that the Catholic Church has not assumed a role in this type of leadership. The life of our Lord provides us with a good example. Seeing the disciples fighting among themselves, he called them together and said: "You know how those who exercise authority among the Gentiles lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt. It cannot be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest, and whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all" (Matt. 20:25). It is strong language and even stronger was Jesus' own example of washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.

The Pope is considered to be the servant of the servants of God. We have talked this way about leadership in the Church for over a thousand years, but many do not see this in practice. During those early years, the Church was overly influenced by the secular custom of governing from the top down. Since Vatican II, the emphasis has been placed on sharing authority whenever possible. We have the circle instead of the pyramid. Even the "ministerial priesthood is in the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians." (CCC.#1547)

Strangely much of the talk about servant leadership is directed to the business world, with its emphasis on increasing production and profit. These motives should not be our reasons for using servant leadership; it is not results that are important but rather growth as Christians and relationships. The words and example of our Lord should guide what we take from the many current guidelines being offered today.

We should encourage more talk about what it means to be a good leader within the Church so all can get a better understanding of what is meant by the term. Besides being concerned with the welfare of everyone in the group, the leader needs to be co-responsible and in partnership, empowering, helping all to grow in every way possible, building community and leading us closer to Jesus. However, when our thoughts, words and deeds are motivated by unselfish love, all forms of leadership would be acceptable.

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