#301 Serving leaders ask themselves: “Who am I?”

May 26, 2021

Most leaders see themselves as people with answers but serving leaders are more concerned about asking the right questions than having the right answers. Asking questions helps people think, helps people grow and helps people lead. So, serving leaders grow themselves and others by learning to ask good strategic questions of themselves and of those they lead. In this series we’ll examine questions that serving leaders ask themselves and a corresponding question that they ask those who follow. The first and primary question leaders ask themselves is, “Who am I?” Paul invites this question when he says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3, NIV). Paul invites all leaders to think of themselves “with sober judgement.” It is not always selfish to think of self. When done with sober judgment one of the ways leaders serve  the people they lead by thinking properly about their identity. Serving leaders ask themselves, “Who am I?” to recognize three components of who they are.  

Serving leaders ask “Who am I?” to establish their identity.

Every leader needs to be grounded in their identity. Paul challenges leaders to reflect on who they are. He does this in the context of a diversity of giftings which God has given to individuals. The temptation for every leader is to identify themselves with their giftings. This can lead to false pride or thinking “of yourself more highly than you ought.” But serving leaders ask themselves, “Who am I?” in order to establish their identity not in what they do, but in who they are. When they ask this question, they avoid comparing themselves to other leaders but focus on who they are. They recognize that God distributes gifts but their identity lies in their relationship with the giver, not the gift.

Serving leaders ask “Who am I?“ to express their strengths.

Paul asks leaders to reflect on the “faith” or gifts that God has given to them. In the context, he is looking at the diversity of gifts that God gives to His people. Serving leaders base their identity on their relationship with God but then ask themselves “Who am I?” to discover and express their strengths. They seek to identify and confirm the gifts God has given them. They are eager to learn about the areas in which they are strong in order to fully maximize their strengths. They acknowledge that they will only flourish in their leadership role when they are utilizing the unique strengths God has given them.

Serving leaders ask “Who am I?“  to expose their weaknesses.

Paul requests that leaders think of themselves with “sober judgement.”  While serving leaders focus on building on their strengths, they also ask “Who am I?” to expose who they are not. They uncover their weaknesses in the journey of self-discovery. As they do so, they do not compare themselves with others who have different gifts. Nor do they seek to become strong in areas in which they are not gifted. Instead, serving leaders allow their weaknesses to move them toward others who complement their strengths. They allow their weaknesses to help them build a well-rounded team.

Start the journey of asking the right questions by asking yourself, “Who am I?”

For further reflection and discussion:

  • On what do I base my identity? Is it primarily focused on my gifts and accomplishments or on my relationship with God? What difference does this make in the way I lead?   
  • What are my greatest strengths? (List several) Am I tempted to see my strengths as a way to  feel  better than others? If so, how does this impact my leadership? What am I doing to develop my strengths?
  • What are my significant weaknesses? (List several) Am I tempted to look down on myself because of these weaknesses or do I acknowledge that I have weaknesses that require me to work with others who can complement me?              

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders ask those who follow, “Who are you?”    

#300 Boaz: Serving by Making Things Happen

(See special offer below!), May 12, 2021

We have already seen that Boaz was a man of great character. His heart to serve directed his actions as he treated others well, honored the weak, gave generously and kept his word. In this final issue we’ll reflect on how Boaz served by making things happen.

1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So, he went over and sat down. 2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek (Ruth 4:1-3, NIV Read the whole chapter to get the whole story).

All leaders are people of action; they make things happen. Boaz illustrates how serving leaders make things happen in ways that focus on others.

Serving leaders make things happen by taking initiative.

After Ruth’s late-night visit to Boaz her mother-in-law told her, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). Just as Naomi suspected Boaz took initiative right away. Boaz went to the town gate where business was transacted. He arrived at the right time and was ready to act as soon as his relative arrived. He called for the meeting and set the agenda clearly. Boaz was doing what leaders do well, taking initiative to make things happen. But why was he doing this? He was responding to a request from Ruth, a widow. As a relative he had a cultural responsibility to help Ruth who was in need. Although he would ultimately gain a wife from his initiative his actions were not selfish. Serving leaders take initiative to make things happen but they do it from a heart that focuses on others more than themselves.

Serving leaders make things happen by taking risks.

The role of the redeemer was risky. The relative was expected to acquire the property of the person who had died, but also to marry the widow. The children from this relationship would be considered as belonging to the deceased man which potentially divides the redeemer’s estate. Boaz presented the situation to his relative knowing that this man was first in line to redeem Naomi’s property. If the relative took the offer, Ruth and the property would go to him instead of Boaz. Boaz was willing to take the risk while the relative was not. Again, he was willing to do what leaders do, take risks to move forward. But serving leaders, like Boaz, take risks that benefit not only themselves but also those they serve.  

Serving leaders make things happen by taking responsibility.  

When the relative declined to act, Boaz was ready to assume responsibility.  9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” (Ruth 4:9-10). All leaders make things happen by taking responsibility. Boaz, as a serving leader, took responsibility that was focused on others, not himself. Serving leaders step up and take responsibility that benefits others.

The life of Boaz serves as a model to all serving leaders. He was a man of “standing” whose leadership actions flowed out of his heart to serve. Follow his example with those you serve today!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Skim the four chapters of Ruth looking for other indications of how Boaz made things happen. What do you observe? In what way can you learn from his example?
  • What was one of the last significant initiatives I took to make things happen? Was it primarily focused on my interest and benefit or on others? What does this say about my heart condition and how does this impact my leadership?
  • In what way can I take risks that benefit others in my current role? Am I inclined to take too much or too little risk? How does this impact my leadership?
  • Is there an area of my leadership in which I have declined to take responsibility, perhaps fearing what it would cost me? How does the example of Boaz invite me to move forward?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll begin a series on questions serving leaders ask!  

Special offer! You just read issue #300 of this publication which started in 2009. To celebrate you can download a free PDF copy of “Signposts for the Journey volume Three: Reflections of a Servant Leader on Daniel, Paul, Trust, Timing, Temptation and More….” Here you will find 52 reflections, enough to keep you growing every week for a year!  Click here to download your copy of this special offer! (If you prefer an electronic reader version or hard copy, click here to purchase on Amazon.)