If you're a leader, you need to be continually growing. But do you have what it takes to do so?
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” - 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)
Chick-fil-A Servant Spirit: In Theory
Awhile ago, I read an issue of In Touch, the magazine produced by Dr. Charles Stanley’s church, First Baptist Atlanta. The publication featured an article titled: “Dan Cathy: Leading the Next Generation at Chick-fil-A.” The article mentioned that Mr. Cathy “spends most of his time traveling, helping with grand openings for new franchises, staying attuned to customers’ needs, and modeling a servant spirit for the employees.”
The fact that Chick-fil-A includes “modeling a servant spirit for employees” as a part of their corporate culture and one of their most critical business imperatives speaks volumes for their focus on servant leadership. In the article, Dan states:
God wants to use the local church to make a difference. There are so many negative forces going on in our society. This is a fallen culture that we live in…but if we’ll acknowledge God in all our ways, then not only for us as a family and as a business but even for us all as a nation, God will continue to direct our paths.
Chick-fil-A Servant Spirit: In Practice
I had the unique opportunity to experience Dan Cathy’s humble attitude and servant leadership approach in person when I recently had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him at a Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon where he was the keynote speaker.
During his powerful presentation, he shared a number of interesting items and artifacts and explained how each symbolized specific leadership principles. One of these articles was a shoe brush. Dan explained how it was used for brushing and shining shoes, but, for him, it also represented the importance of remaining a humble servant and reminded him of how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.
Well, after explaining this, Dan asked a gentleman from the audience to come and stand beside him. And to our utter amazement, Dan got on his knees and actually rolled up the cuffs of the man’s trousers and brushed and shined his shoes! When he finished, he pulled the cuffs back down, stood up, and gave the man a hug! Dan explained that this is the type of servant attitude that he tries to impart to his employees. Dan’s actions transcended his words in an extraordinary way and left an affirmative, indelible impression that I will never forget.
We must always pray for spiritual discernment in creating a corporate culture that is not only authentic, but also honors God. You should be so much of a positive influence on others that their lives should be enhanced as a result of being under your leadership and authority. I believe the definition of an exceptional leader is one who serves and enhances the lives of others by moving them closer to God and the achievement of their spiritual calling and purpose. If you can create a culture to facilitate this, then you are one step closer to truly transforming the workplace and marketplace.
Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. - Isaiah 42: 1-3 (NLT)
Miscommunication occurs daily, if not hourly, in the workplace and marketplace. Lack of clear and concise communication leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding, which can ultimately lead to confrontation.
Being a humble servant of God does not mean that you can’t be confrontational. The key is in the way in which you manage the situation and communication with the people with whom God leads you to confront. Notice that I emphasize here that we should be led by God in our confrontations with others as opposed to just being led by our personal agenda, anger, frustration, or other selfish inclinations of the flesh. If God desires for you to confront someone, He will send the Holy Spirit to encourage and guide you. And He will provide the appropriate opportunity and setting.
When we are led by God to confront someone, it’s critical that we approach confrontations in a respectful manner regardless of whether we are dealing with a person who is a colleague, a superior, or a subordinate. Galatians 6:1-10 encourages us to always seek to do good for one another and to confront or restore others with a spirit of gentleness.
Let’s consider our professional coach and role model, Jesus, as an example. Jesus was confrontational. The Bible describes numerous incidents in which Jesus confronted others, but He was confrontational in a respectful way that conveyed kindness, wisdom, and compassion. For instance, when Jesus corrected Martha in Luke 10:38-42, He did so in a kind and respectful manner, saying:
Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.
- Luke 10:41-42 (NKJV)
In this passage, Jesus employs a 3-step process when He confronts Martha by:
- Acknowledging feelings and concerns (e.g., “you are worried and troubled”).
- Sharing godly wisdom and advice (e.g., “only one thing is needed”).
- Offering practical suggestions and examples to enhance learning (e.g., “Mary has chosen that good part").
Another example of the confrontation methods of Jesus involves times when He healed individuals who were blind and mute and cast demons out of others. The Pharisees had the audacity to question His ability to cast out demons without the help of a demon (Matthew 12:22-30; Mark 3: 20-27)! In this particular case, Jesus used the same approach He used with Martha in confronting the Pharisees to help them understand how preposterous their questions and comments were.
In confronting the Pharisees, Jesus, 1) acknowledges their feelings and concerns by asking them a number of thought-provoking questions such as, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”(Mark 3:23, NKJV).
He then, 2) shares godly wisdom with them regarding the fact that “if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:25-28, NKJV).
And Jesus, 3) offers practical suggestions to the Pharisees by clearly affirming truth and encouraging them to be with Him and not against Him, because this is the only way to achieve forgiveness and eternal salvation (Matthew 12:30-32).
How might you leverage the 3-step confrontation process of Jesus with your colleagues, employees, clients, customers, suppliers, and others?
Jesus is a living testament of the effectiveness of following God’s communication guidelines and confronting others in truth, peace, and wisdom. His three-step confrontation process of acknowledging feelings, sharing wisdom, and offering practical suggestions worked for Him, and it will work for you. It is a wise, straightforward, and powerful approach that you can use during those times when God leads you to confront others.
Think about a difficult leader that you have worked for. Have you made a conscious decision to lead differently than “them”? I’ve only been a waitress once, for one day. I was sixteen years old and had just passed my driver’s test on the second try. Excited to have the independence my age deserved, I realized I would need money for gas. It was time to get a job.
Applications submitted. Interviews complete. I found my job as a waitress in a nursing home in Cupertino, California. Eagerly I reported to work on the first day as a dining room waitress. A notebook and pencil thrust into my hand, I went onto the floor to take my first orders.
Quickly I realized that this job was much harder than I thought. The residents starting telling me what they wanted for lunch. But they also had questions and special requests. I didn’t know the menu. I didn’t know the protocols for special requests. I wrote everything down as fast as I could and tried to be patient with the people who were getting increasingly impatient with my novice abilities.
Evidently I didn’t get the orders right, because when I went to the kitchen to pick up the food for my table, the chef was yelling at me, calling me incompetent, and barking about my stupid first day mistakes. I grabbed the food, struggled to get them on the table, only to find the residents at my table were as irritated with me as the chef.
At the end of the lunch shift, with teary eyes and embarrassment, I turned in my resignation and went home, discouraged and defeated by my first and only day as a waitress.
“I’ve never known a person who didn’t light up at the memory of a truly great boss. And for good reason – they can shape and advance your career in ways you never expected – and sometimes they can even change your life. In stark contrast, a bad boss can just about kill you.”
Jack Welch, Winning
What is your memory of the worst day you ever spent in a job? What happened? How did you feel? Who was the leader on that worst day in your life? Can you remember their name?
My experience was 42 years ago, but I can feel the humiliation and defeat of that job as if it was yesterday. The only leader I remember is the chef that chewed me out. I don’t remember who hired me. I don’t remember any training or preparation for my first shift. I don’t remember anyone concerned about my decision to resign. There was no exit interview. But this I know. I don’t ever want to put a new employee in that position. I don’t want any person to remember me 42 years later with humiliation and defeat.
Today, jot a few notes down about the worst working day of your life. What could the leader have done to set you up for success? What could they have done to make that the best day of your working life?
Then the hard part of the assignment.
Turn the mirror towards you.
Have you set up your people for success today?
Decide what you need to do right now to make sure that working for you will be a positive memory.
Let’s be better leaders – and leave a legacy.
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” -Proverbs 22:1
Have you ever had someone’s name come up in conversation, and you just rave about that person? You speak well of them, you tell about their outstanding character, you love to be merely in the same room as them.
This is a person with a “good name.”
A good name is ultimately what lasts. Riches don’t go with you to the grave, but your character does. The problem is that we tend to lose focus in the working world. It lures us to build up money and accumulate things. And we end up forgetting about the most important task that the 40 hours a week should see us doing—that of building good character.
So how do you start to focus on building up a good name instead of building up riches, which come and go?
Here’s four ways to start:
1. Allegiance to God, not man. We have to yield daily to His principles and start to live in the reality that we are working for the Lord first, our boss second. When we have the mindset of working for God, we pay more attention to his rules, his ways, and his directions. As our boss and the one we serve, he desires vastly different things than many of the bosses that we will encounter. Stay always in the mindset that you are working for Him and serving Him first, and His ways will gradually become yours. God isn’t interested in making you rich (“Oh how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!”)—he’s interested in making you more into the image of His son.
2. Loving others more than yourself. When we are self-centered (which is a lot of the time!), we focus on what will serve our kingdom best. For me, this generally leads to giving more time to myself, spending more money on myself, and thinking about myself. I’m essentially putting my resources into puffing up my own world.
But when you start to focus on others and spend time learning how to love them, two things happen. You start to build others up, and by doing so, you become more of a servant-hearted person. There are few people I know that would rather spend time with someone who’s prideful rather than someone who’s humble.
3. Integrity. Simply put, you’ve got to be the same person…everywhere you go. Many people build up a good name for themselves at work, but their home life is a train wreck. It’s not worth it to receive accolades as a professional but fail as a brother. It doesn’t build one area of your life and neglect the rest. Your name is a holistic representation of who you are. It comprises your work self, your church self, your personal self, your family self, and more. The task is to bridge any gaps that remain and fix inconsistencies.
4. Gratitude. Many go through life blazing their own trail and leaving a cloud of dust behind them. They use people to get what they want and step over people to get to the top. What they’re leaving behind them is a trail of people who think poorly of them because they’ve been treated poorly, which in the end doesn’t serve the person at all. Who wants to be at the top, only to find that everybody hates you?
The antidote to this path is gratitude. Yes, fight hard, become better at what you do. But thank the people that help you along the way. Thank your mom and dad for raising you and teaching you. Thank your boss, even if they weren’t so great (you can always learn something from tough people).
Thank your teachers, your friends, your spouse.
Thankfulness yields a good trail of people who think well of you. We live in a world of overworked, under-appreciated people. So when people feel appreciated, they appreciate you back. A hand-written note truly does amazing things to the heart. I’ve seen people change their countenance before my eyes when I’ve handed them a thank-you note.
What about you? What has your experience in the working world been like? What steps have you taken to make sure you’re pursuing the right things? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.