#338 Serving with Authority: Use It

November 23, 2022

Serving leaders don’t avoid authority, they use it to serve! They welcome authority as a way to build others up, move the organization in the direction it needs to go, etc. Paul, as we saw in the last issue, used authority to build others up. Now, let’s reflect on a short statement he made which is packed with leadership insights about authority.  

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).

Paul boldly and unapologetically calls the believers at Corinth to follow his example! He is using his authority to spur them on in the direction they need to go. He is serving by using authority and his statement provides several insights into how serving leaders use authority.  

Using authority involves modeling.

“Follow my example, as I follow….” Paul makes it very clear that he is not asking others to do something that he is now willing to do. He is calling them to do what they have seen him doing. He models to his followers what he asks them to do. He models being under authority before exercising authority. He is a follower before he is a leader. Some leaders give directions but don’t model what they ask others to do. Serving leaders first show the way and then call others to follow. This compels serving leaders to first examine their own lives before they call others to follow. They recognize that they need to model the values, mission and purpose of the organization they lead before they can boldly ask others to follow. Where they fall short, they acknowledge their failure and seek to improve. Then, they are not ashamed to tell others, “Live and work like I do!” Serving leaders model the way before using their authority to ask others to follow. They serve others by modeling the way.

Using authority implies direction.

Paul, in these few words was clearly using his authority to providing direction to those who followed him.  “Follow my example…” He is not ashamed to set the standards of what he expects from his followers. As he does this, he brings focus and clarity to the direction he is calling people to go. Some leaders are reluctant to point others in a clear direction. They feel that serving others means moving only when everyone agrees. Leaders who seek consensus from everyone often cannot move forward. Serving leaders understand that their authority is given to them for the purpose of setting direction. They gladly seek input and counsel from their team but they do not hesitate to clearly articulate the direction needed. They serve the mission of the organization by clearly pointing out the direction which is needed.   

Using authority inspires action.

Leadership involves getting things done, using authority to help people move in the desired direction.  Paul’s instruction here is a clear call to action for the believers in Corinth. He sets the example with his own life. He points out the direction that movement is needed. As he serves with these leadership actions he inspires action from the followers.

Paul’s instruction here can be lost in the context of his showing an example, but he says “Follow” as a command, an instruction. It is a call to action, to movement in a direction.

Some leaders use their position to call people to action. They use the power of a paycheck or other incentives to help people act. But serving leaders use their authority to inspire others to act. As serving leaders model the way and clarify direction, they inspire action! Those who follow understand what is expected of them and they are motivated to move forward. A serving leader is in charge to charge others up! They serve by inspiring action from others.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How well do I model the purpose, values and mission of the organization I lead? How does this impact my ability to serve my team? Can I say with confidence, “Follow my example”?
  • How effectively do I use my authority to provide direction to those that I serve? Am I more inclined to lead only when there is consensus or to lead without consulting others? What can I do to strengthen the clarity of direction needed in my organization?
  • How well does my leadership inspire others to act? Are there ways that I use my leadership authority to force others to act rather than inspire them to act?                     

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders release authority.