#377 It’s None of Your Business: Shape it 

July 10, 2024

 We saw in the previous issue that serving leaders recognize that the business* is not theirs, they are stewards. Yet, stewards are not passive bystanders, they are active participants in the work of building and growing an organization. They are called by God to shape the organization as indicated in these verses: 

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28, NIV).

[Leaders are] to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12).

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

Serving leaders take these, and other scriptures, as their mandate to make things happen. God’s original mandate for humans was to “Be fruitful and increase…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over…” They are called to work hard with their whole heart in the place where God has allowed them to be a steward. Leaders are called to shape their worlds!

Serving leaders shape the organization by building a kingdom focus.

As stewards of a business or organization, serving leaders see their role as building the organization to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. They see their organization as contributing value to the world through the services and products that they offer. Builders create homes where people can live peacefully in safety and security. Bakers make food that sustains the lives of those they serve. Bankers provide opportunities for investments and financial stability. Every honorable profession is a part of God’s plan for a flourishing world! Some leaders are focused on building their own kingdoms, seeking to obtain wealth for themselves and their offspring. But serving leaders focus on a much larger picture. Serving leaders see their work as a small part of a much larger vision of what God is doing on the earth.  They craft a vision statement of how they bring value to the world. Their mission is focused on building and serving others. Their values reflect God’s heart for the way people should relate to each other. They build teams that demonstrate God’s purpose for the variety of strengths He has given. They delegate power and authority in ways that reflect God’s design for human development and flourishing.

Serving leaders shape the organization by building people.

Most leaders are focused on shaping the business or organization they are leading for success or profit. Serving leaders shape the organization by building people. They understand that as they build people and create a healthy culture the organization will grow and succeed. They see their primary role as “to equip” people for work. Serving leaders shape the organization with a focus on the people. 

Serving leaders shape the organization by building a culture of excellence.

Some leaders focus their organization towards profit and are willing to sacrifice quality when it appears to strengthen their bottom line. But serving leaders see themselves as stewards and all they do as an act of worship since they are “working for the Lord.” They honor God with the best product and service they can produce. They strive to create a culture in which people bring “their whole heart” to the task at hand.  They expect and reward excellence.   

Remember, it’s not your business! Serving leaders serve the organization by shaping it.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does my business or organization fit into God’s grand purposes for the
    world? How do our services/products make the world a better place? How
    effectively do I communicate this to the people inside and outside our
    organization?
  • In what ways am I growing people in my organization? Do I provide salaries
    that allow people to grow and flourish? Do I align people with their own
    strengths and giftings? Am I continually delegating responsibility and
    authority that builds leadership capacity in my organization?
  • How highly do we value excellence in the organization or team I lead? Are
    there areas in which we do not view our work as an act of worship to God and
    worthy of our best effort? How well does our work environment reflect God’s
    desire for beauty and order? What steps can I take this week to encourage and promote a culture of excellence?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

*Note: In this series we use “business” to apply to any type of organization whether for profit or non-profit. The principles of this series apply to for-profit enterprises, non-profits (such as churches or NGO’s) and any other domain of work and service.  In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders serve the business.

#376 It’s None of Your Business: Surrender it

June 19, 2024 

Leaders influence and impact the realm where they have authority. This may be at home, in their office or department, in the church they lead or in the business they operate. They naturally feel a sense of ownership of that entity, especially if they founded the organization or business*. But serving leaders recognize that the business is not their business. They view their business as reflected in the following scriptures.  

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Ps. 24:1, NIV). 

‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty  (Haggai 2:8).  

6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).     

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7).  

Serving leaders see themselves as stewards rather than owners, they surrender ownership of their business/organization and it deeply impacts the way they lead.  

Serving leaders surrender the organization by acknowledging God’s ownership.   

God loudly declares that everything in the world is His! The land and the financial resources all belong to Him. This includes property deeds, bank accounts, property, equipment, etc. God allows His people to use His property for the time that they are alive. Serving leaders recognize that they are simply stewards of what He has entrusted to them. They seek to be responsible and faithful for what they have to manage whether little or much.  

Some leaders see themselves as owners and work in the business to bring profit to themselves. They take full responsibility for all that happens and focus on success as they define it. But serving leaders acknowledge God’s ownership. They are grateful for the opportunity to manage the organization and seek to do it with excellence. But they do not carry the weight and pressure of ownership. They find peace in being stewards.  

Serving leaders surrender the organization by acknowledging others’ contributions.  

Paul openly acknowledged that his success was dependent on the contributions of others. He “planted” but Apollos “watered” and ultimately God was the one “making it grow.”  

Some leaders only recognize their own contributions and tie their effort to the success of the organization. They start early and stay late because they think that without their diligence the organization will fail. But serving leaders acknowledge that success is not the result of one person’s efforts, but the work of a team. They gladly point out the contributions that others are making to the organization’s growth and ultimately give God the credit for the healthy growth they experience.  

Serving leaders surrender the organization by acknowledging their gifts.     

Paul acknowledged that he planted seeds that produced fruit. But he also recognized that the gifts he possessed were a gift from God, not something he produced on his own. Some leaders see themselves as superior to others and take credit for their own gifts. But serving leaders acknowledge their gifts as a blessing from God. They do not minimize how they are gifted, but they also do not take personal credit for that which they have received.   

Remember, it’s not your business! Serving leaders serve their organizations by surrendering ownership.  

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • How do I view ‘my’ organization, as mine or God’s? Do I feel pressured to make things happen and tie the success of my organization to my value as a person? How can I daily live in the reality that it all belongs to God?  
  • When I reflect on the success experienced in my organization, do I look first at my own contributions, or do I focus on the contributions of others? How can I acknowledge the contributions of my team this week?  
  • Reflect on Paul’s words, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” This week, how can I thank those who invested in my own growth and development? (Think about teachers, mentors, persons who opened doors for you, introduced you to significant relationships, those who believed in you before you produced results, etc.)  

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

*Note: In this series we’ll use “business” to apply to any type of organization whether for profit or non-profit. The principles of this series apply to for-profit enterprises, non-profits (such as churches or NGO’s) and any other domain of work and service.   

In the next issue, we’ll examine how serving leaders shape the business.  

#374 Nehemiah: Build on Strength™

May 24, 2024 

The vision of Nehemiah to rebuild the wall required a variety of strengths to accomplish. Nehemiah recognized that he did not have all the strengths needed to accomplish the task—he needed a team. He was a great leader but Nehemiah was not capable of doing all that was needed for the building of the wall and community. This included casting vision, strategic thinking, administration, craftsmanship, technical skills, teaching, etc. Serving leaders recognize that there’s no such thing as a well-rounded leader, but there are well-rounded teams. Nehemiah models how serving leaders build teams based on strengths.   

Serving Leaders Build on Strength by acknowledging different roles    

The physical rebuilding needed people who could carry stones, those who were capable of doing masonry work, others skilled in timber and iron construction for the doors, etc. Beyond the construction of the wall, the story of his leadership also demonstrates a wide variety of tasks and roles including goldsmiths and merchants (3:31), guards (4:16), those who blew the trumpet (4:18), messengers (6:3), musicians (7:1, 12:27), keepers of the storerooms, gatekeepers (7:1; 11:21), leaders in charge of different areas (7:2, 70; 11:1, 11;  12:7-8; 15:16), teachers (8:4-8), temple servants (11:21), and priests and Levites (12:1-7). Nehemiah acknowledged all these roles as necessary for achieving the vision. The people doing menial tasks were as essential to the work as the person blowing the trumpet.  

Some leaders see their leadership role as critical but don’t appreciate the person who answers the phone or the one who cleans the floor. But serving leaders recognize that all tasks, even the menial ones, are vital to accomplishing the vision.  They verbally appreciate the role of each member of the team and acknowledge that the different strengths are all necessary.    

Serving Leaders Build on Strength by aligning work with passion  

In the building of the wall there were certainly times when people worked in areas outside of their strength. The job needed to be done! But Nehemiah also deliberately assigned tasks that would align with passion.  One example, “Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house” (Nehemiah 3:28, NIV). 

Nehemiah strategically placed people to build the wall that was close to their own homes. He knew that they would be more energized to do the work that was near to their heart! He was aligning their work with their passion. Some leaders assign tasks with little thought to whether the person will enjoy doing the work. But serving leaders look not only at ability for a task but passion. They recognize that someone may be very capable of performing a role, but not energized by doing it. Serving leaders look for ability combined with passion.  

Serving Leaders Build on Strength by applauding joint success  

Nehemiah worked hard and the wall was finally completed. Then they celebrated!  

At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres (Nehemiah 12:27). The celebration included two choirs marching around the wall in different directions with sounds that were heard “far away”! Nehemiah applauded the work that the entire community had accomplished.  

Some leaders focus on the work, but never pause to celebrate. Or they focus on an individual accomplishment without acknowledging the work of the team. But serving leaders applaud success and find ways to celebrate the accomplishments of individuals and the team.  

For further reflection and discussion:  

  • How well do I know my own strengths and passions? Am I working to focus more of my time and energy on the things I do especially well?  
  • Do I see the tasks of each person, especially the menial ones, as vital to the success of our team? What have I done this week to affirm the value that each one brings to our team? 
  • When I see someone on my team doing a task well, do I assume that they have passion for that work, or do I inquire about their passion? Ask one or two of them, “If you do this all day long, do you go home energized or drained?” What do I learn from their response? How can I better align my team around passions? 
  • How well does our team celebrate success? What have we done recently that should be celebrated? What do I need to do to ensure that we have the celebration?   
  • Read the story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Build on Strength. Especially reflect on the story of their celebration in chapter 12. What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?     

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Nehemiah’s leadership empowered others and prepared for succession.  

Finally, as a free gift to you, Click Here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization.  

For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.

#375 Nehemiah: Upend the Pyramid™

June 5, 2024 

The final action of the Serving Leader Model® is Upend the Pyramid. At the heart of serving leadership is a radically different approach that does not focus on self and personal gain. Serving leaders instead focus on serving the mission of the organization, the people who are a part of the organization, and those served by the organization. Serving leadership turns the traditional model of leadership upside down—they Upend the Pyramid.  

Nehemiah demonstrated serving leadership as he built the wall in Jerusalem and strengthened the city.  He refused to take some of the perks of his role in order to relieve the people of a tax burden (see Nehemiah 5:14-19). Also, consider these glimpses of how his leadership upended the pyramid.  

1After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do (Nehemiah 7:1-2, NIV).  

The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people— (Nehemiah 12:38, NIV). 

6 But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7and came back to Jerusalem….(Nehemiah 13:6-7a).   

Serving Leaders Upend the Pyramid by delegating authority  

Nehemiah “put in charge…” two men to lead the city and appointed gatekeepers, musicians and Levites. Nehemiah was clearly delegating authority and power to others rather than keeping control of everything himself. Some leaders are reluctant to release power to others but serving leaders focus on releasing rather than keeping power. They delegate carefully and clearly. They recognize that they are in charge to charge others up!   

Serving Leaders Upend the Pyramid by developing people  

As the choir celebrated the great achievement of building the wall, Nehemiah “followed them.” Nehemiah was in the rear by design. He had called for the celebration and delegated authority to musicians and Levites. Now he watched others lead the way and cheered them on from behind. His heart was to see others develop and rise in their own leadership capacity. This development of others extended far beyond helping them learn how to put stones on the wall, he wanted to see them mature as people and as leaders.  

Most leaders assume that they must lead from the front and be the most visible person on the team. They naturally call attention to themselves. But serving leaders are content to cheer from behind, smiling with contentment as they help others grow and develop.  

Serving Leaders Upend the Pyramid by disappearing by design  

“I was not in Jerusalem.” After the wall was built Nehemiah went back to Babylon for some time. Certainly, there were official duties that he needed to fulfill. But Nehemiah was also making space for others to rise up and lead. He was, by design, preparing others to take over his leadership role. Some leaders cannot imagine a time that they will not be in charge and they don’t prepare others for the day they will be gone. But serving leaders understand from the beginning that their own leadership role will one day end. They serve the organization by ensuring that others are prepared to take over at that time. A part of that preparation is intentionally stepping away at times to let others grow and develop. 

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • In what ways am I tempted to do things myself rather than delegate? In what ways have I delegated authority recently? Are there ways that I delegate responsibilities and then don’t give others the power to carry it out? Do I keep an appropriate level of accountability with those I empower?  
  • Who on my team could be developed to a higher level of responsibility? What steps will I take to deliberately develop them?  
  • What am I doing to prepare my team for success after I am no longer the leader? Would it be helpful for them if I disappeared for a time? What do I need to do to better prepare for succession?  
  • Read the story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Upend the Pyramid. What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?     

Nehemiah was not a perfect leader, but he served well and demonstrated all Five Actions of Serving Leadership™.       

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll begin a new series!  

Finally, as a gift to you, Click Here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization. For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.

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#373 Nehemiah: Blaze the Trail™ 

May 8, 2024 

Nehemiah served the people of Jerusalem by clarifying the vision and calling the people to live by their values. He also demonstrated the third action of serving leaders, Blaze the Trail,  by keeping everyone focused on the mission. Serving leaders clarify for their team what activities bring the success that will accomplish the mission. They ensure that these activities are consistently practiced, and they work to remove any obstacles that would hinder progress toward the mission. One obstacle for Nehemiah was the enemies who wanted to stop the work and distract the workers.    

1When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer (Nehemiah 6:1-4, NIV).  

Nehemiah’s response models how serving leaders Blaze the Trail for those they lead.  

Serving Leaders Blaze the Trail by mentioning what matters  

Nehemiah responded to the message by stating “I am carrying on a great project.” He wanted it to be clear to those on the wall and those far away that what was critical was not meetings but putting stones on top of one another!  It was hard, sweaty work but Nehemiah understood exactly what would bring success, consistent focus on laying one stone on top of another! This was all that mattered for the mission to be accomplished. And he gave meaning and purpose to the task by calling it a “great project.”  

Some leaders are not crystal clear on what activities will bring success to their organization. Others understand but have not communicated them clearly to everyone on their team. But serving leaders clarify what brings success and make sure that everyone understands.  Serving leaders mention what matters.  

Serving Leaders Blaze the Trail by minimizing distractions  

The invitation for a meeting came under the guise of finding a peaceful resolution to the nagging opposition. Nehemiah recognized that going to a meeting in a nearby village would be a distraction that would take him away from the work for several days. The distraction may have been an attempt to take his life, or to attack the workers while he was not present. In any case, Nehemiah refused to be distracted. “I…cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”  

Some leaders allow themselves and those around them to focus on things that are not actually important to the mission of the organization. But serving leaders work hard to ensure that everything they are doing is mission critical and that those working with them are doing the same. They remove obstacles and minimize distractions.  

Serving Leaders Blaze the Trail by maintaining consistency     

Nehemiah’s challenge was repeated four times and “each time I gave them the same answer.” He remained consistent and kept his focus on putting one stone on top of the next.  

Some leaders hold true to their mission for a time, but when there are repeated distractions, they lose their focus. But serving leaders keep themselves and everyone else focused on what really matters to the organization. They don’t stifle innovation, but they insist on doing the right things again and again. They serve with consistency.   

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • How clearly do I understand our mission? Do I know what activities bring success to us and what activities are a waste of time? How well do those serving with me understand our success factors? (Use the free tool below to help you with this process.)  
  • What things am I tempted to do often that are not essential to our mission? What do I need to do to eliminate them? For those on my team, what distractions do they face and what can I do to remove them?  
  • How consistently do I focus on activities that bring success to our organization? How does this impact my leadership?  
  • Read the story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Blaze the Trail™. (Focus especially on chapters 4 and 6). What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?     

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll look at ways that Nehemiah built teams by focusing on strengths.   

Finally, as a free gift to you, click here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization.  

For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.  

#372 Nehemiah: Raise the Bar™

April 24, 2024 

Nehemiah had a clear vision to build the wall, but as a serving leader he was also concerned about the welfare of his people.  During the rebuilding project Nehemiah discovered that many of the people were suffering because of high interest rates charged by their fellow Jews. The wealthy were taking advantage of the poor—lending them money at rates that cost the poor their land and even their own children who were sold to pay debts. Their actions not only violated the law but contradicted the values that Nehemiah wanted to instill in the community. In the midst of the massive building project Nehemiah took action.  

6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say (Nehemiah 5:6-8, NIV).  

He understood that values violations from within the community represented a threat that was as significant as the external opposition he had already faced. Nehemiah recognized that weak values would not build a strong wall. As a serving leader he models the second action, Raise the Bar™ which focuses on identifying, clarifying and embedding core values into the hearts and minds of everyone in the organization.  

Serving Leaders Raise the Bar by defining the values.  

Nehemiah’s comments reveal at least several of the values that he wanted the community to embrace—compassion, integrity and justice. Nehemiah wanted to ensure that everyone understood what values were important and what they looked like in everyday actions. In this case, the values were not being expressed and he wanted the people to understand. In this he succeeded and the people “could find nothing to say.”    

Some leaders simply focus on getting the work done, pressing on to accomplish the vision. They do not understand that values exist whether or not they are articulated and defined. But serving leaders acknowledge that values need to be clearly articulated and understood by every team member. They communicate what the value looks like and what it does not look like. As they do so, they Raise the Bar™ for everyone.   

Serving Leaders Raise the Bar by demonstrating the values.  

Nehemiah says, “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles.” Nehemiah was living out the values he articulated to the group. He had compassion on those who were in bondage and had bought some back from slavery.  

Some leaders talk about values and expect others to live them out, but fail to uphold them. But serving leaders model the way, they demonstrate to others the values they expect them to uphold. This does not mean they are perfect, but even when they fail, they humbly acknowledge their failure and adjust their behavior. 

Serving Leaders Raise the Bar by dealing with values violations.  

“You are charging your own people interest!” Nehemiah was not afraid to address the values violation even in the midst of a very busy project.   

Some leaders ignore values violations, hoping that others won’t notice or that with time, the behaviors will improve. But serving leadership is not weak leadership! Serving leaders, like Nehemiah, Raise the Bar™ by addressing violations of values immediately and courageously. 

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • What three or four values are essential to carrying out my vision?  
  • How clearly does my team know these values? Do they understand what the values look like in everyday activities? Do they understand what behaviors are a violation of those values?  
  • Are there ways my actions in the past week have violated any of the values I just listed? How does this impact my leadership?  
  • What is my typical response when I observe values violations on my team? How does this impact my leadership? What do I need to do to strengthen my leadership in this area? Are there current conversations that I need to have to address values violations? When will I do this?  
  • Read the story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Raise the Bar™. (See especially the full context of chapter 5 and also his actions in chapter 10.) What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?     

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Nehemiah brought clarity about his mission.  

Finally, as a free gift to you, click here to download one tool to help you identify and define your core values. 

For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.  

 #371 Nehemiah: Run to Great Purpose™

April 10, 2024

The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ recognized and taught by Dr. John Stahl-Wert are universal actions that every great serving leader uses to build high performing teams. These actions work in every sphere of society and in all types of organizations.

In this series we’ll look at how Nehemiah demonstrated these five actions in rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem. The first action, Run to Great Purpose™, focuses on clarifying and embedding the great purpose, or vision, into the organization.  Nehemiah developed a great purpose as he listened to the report of those who came from Jerusalem and spent time in prayer.   

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:….“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying,…. I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name’ (Nehemiah 1:3-8, portions, NIV).

Later, when Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem, he spoke these words to the people:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. (Nehemiah 2:17)

Nehemiah models how serving leaders Run to Great Purpose™.

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by addressing the importance.

Nehemiah mourned and wept over the condition of Jerusalem and was convinced that rebuilding the wall would make a significant difference for the nation. The broken wall was a sign of “trouble and disgrace” and God had promised to gather people in Jerusalem around His temple. Nehemiah’s vision to build the wall was inspired by issues that would make a difference in the world.  The vision was not about bricks and mortar, it was about removing disgrace and recapturing God’s purpose for the city. Some leaders fail to tie daily activities to a greater purpose. But serving leaders create a compelling vision that provides meaning for every aspect of the work.  Nehemiah might have said it this way: “You’re not just putting stones on top of each other, you are removing disgrace and restoring this city to its destiny!”

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by articulating the need.

When Nehemiah addressed the people, his first words articulated the need of the moment, “You see the trouble we are in…”  There was a need for a wall, but the people had become so accustomed to walking past piles of rubble that they didn’t notice the need until Nehemiah pointed it out. Every organization exists to meet a need in the world. Some leaders fail to make the connection between the everyday activities of people and the need. But serving leaders articulate the need and connect it to the great purpose.

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by appealing to emotion.

In his appeal Nehemiah says, Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.  As he mentions disgrace Nehemiah is appealing to their hearts and emotion. He recognized that until peoples’ emotions were engaged, they would not devote themselves to the hard work of building the wall. This is not an emotional plea, but an appeal to the emotions. Some leaders deliberately avoid emotions and assume that work is all about the task. But serving leaders recognize that emotions are a key factor in motivation. They find ways to touch the hearts of the people they serve and connect their emotion to the great purpose.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is the great purpose of my organization? Is it clearly stated and understood by everyone? Does the work of every person in the organization help us accomplish that great purpose? How do I communicate with every person how their actions help us accomplish the great purpose?
  • What need does my organization meet? What difference would it make if we were not in existence? Have I deliberately articulated that to everyone in the organization?
  • Do I see emotions as important for the work we do as an organization or have I viewed emotions with suspicion? What difference does this make in my leadership? How can I deliberately link an individuals work with their emotions?
  • Read the entire story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Run to Great Purpose. What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Nehemiah used values in his leadership.

Finally, as a free gift to you, click here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization. For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.

#370 Secure Leaders Develop Others

March 27, 2024

We have examined several significant actions of secure leaders and recognized that secure leaders are serving leaders. They demonstrate their leadership security as they serve by encouraging, delegating, embracing differences, and accepting mistakes. These actions all lead to the final one, developing others. Developing others is both the outcome of these actions and a deliberate act of secure leaders. Apart from Jesus, Paul is perhaps the best example of a secure leader that developed many other leaders, including Apollos. When the Corinthian church started quarreling about who they should follow, Paul had this to say:  

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:5-9, NIV).

Paul’s response demonstrates why secure leaders serve as they develop others.

Secure leaders develop others because they recognize their role.  

 “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants…” Paul recognized that he was the founder of this church. But he also saw his role as a servant. He was in a role to serve others and to meet the needs they had. He served by developing Apollos, another servant. Paul was secure in his role and did not need to defend his superiority.   

An insecure leader in the same situation would loudly defend their own role and remind people of their title or position. But secure leaders do not need to argue, they recognize their role and are content to serve in the place of influence they occupy whether that is high or low.

Secure leaders develop others because they respect the gifts of others. 

“…as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it…” Paul knew his own gifts but recognized that Apollos had distinct gifts. Paul was secure in who he was called to be and had no problem with one of his disciples being gifted differently.

Insecure leaders cannot affirm the unique gifts of others, especially when they seem to outshine their own. But secure leaders respect the gifts others bring and welcome them to use those gifts to serve.  

Secure leaders develop others because they realize the vision.  

 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Paul was able to develop others and allow them to flourish because he realized that the vision was much bigger than him. Paul’s vision was not only to plant churches but to see a reproducing movement of churches. He realized that he could not accomplish this alone. He was secure enough to invest in developing others so the work would multiply in subsequent generations.

Insecure leaders limit the vision to what they can accomplish through others but they don’t develop others to multiply the vision for the next generations. Their focus on self produces a short-term vision. But secure leaders see a larger vision of work that will continue long after their own time. So, they invest in the lives of others, developing them to carry on the vision.

Your security as a leader matters! Consider the questions below to grow in your own leadership security.   

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When I look at my own leadership, do I primarily see things I have accomplished myself or ways that I have developed others?  How does this reflect my own level of leadership security?
  • How do I see my role as a leader? Do I have a need to be at the top or be recognized as the most important leader in my organization? If my title was taken away, would I be content to continue serving in whatever role I had?
  • When I see gifts in others, do I feel threatened by areas in which they excel beyond me? How does this impact the way I talk about other leaders in my organization?
  • Is my vision limited to what I can accomplish in my lifetime, or do I see a larger picture of what can be accomplished in the next generations?   
  • Where I see insecurity in my leadership, what steps do I need to take this week to become a more secure leader? Who can I talk with that can help me grow or hold me accountable to take the steps I need to take?           

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler  In the next issue, we’ll begin a new series.

#369 Secure Leaders Accept Mistakes

March 13, 2024

Leaders make mistakes and those they lead make mistakes! But there are many ways that leaders respond to the mistakes. Their response indicates their own level of security as a leader. The story of Joseph is a model of leadership in many ways. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, it was not only a mistake but a terrible wrong done to Joseph. His response to them after he revealed himself to them is remarkable.  

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Gen. 45:5-7, NIV).

The response of Joseph to his brothers indicates grace and forgiveness and the deep security he had as a leader. He models the way secure leaders view the mistakes of others.

Secure leaders accept mistakes because they understand their role towards those they serve.

Joseph acknowledges the hand of God in his own life even through the mistakes of his brothers. He sees that “it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” He was secure in understanding God’s plan for his own life and understood that the mistakes of others would not change who he was or what God wanted to do with his life. His role was given by God and was not for his own benefit, but to serve others.

Insecure leaders see mistakes of others as directly impacting their role and their value. When mistakes happen, they react based on how they perceive it will impact them. But secure leaders act out of the confidence they have in God’s control and realize that the mistakes of others do not raise or lower their call to lead.

Secure leaders accept mistakes because they care about the emotions of those they serve.  

Joseph knew his brothers would struggle with feelings of guilt and be angry at themselves. So he tells them, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here.” He was secure enough to think of how they felt, not simply about his own emotions. Joseph was emotionally healthy. He had worked through his own deep emotions and was now able to care for others.

Insecure leaders think only of their own emotions. When mistakes are made, they may react in anger, disgust, or contempt. They reflect on how the mistake of another impacts their own image. But secure leaders can focus on the emotions of the person who made the mistake and care about what they feel.

Secure leaders accept mistakes because they want the best for those they serve.

“But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Joseph was able to focus on his brothers and how their mistake would help provide for their own needs, not his own. He was in his position to serve others and meet their needs, not his own.  

Insecure leaders evaluate mistakes by how it will impact their own role or position.  But secure leaders are focused on what is best for those they serve and accept mistakes as an opportunity to serve. If the person who made a mistake needs encouragement, they encourage. If they need coaching, they provide it. If the person needs to experience a consequence for their mistake, they also provide that, but not from anger or a desire for revenge but out of a heart to serve. Secure leaders want the best for others.

For further reflection and discussion:  

  • How have I led myself in regard to my own mistakes? Have I grown to the point that I accept my own mistakes as a part of my journey or do I expect perfection from myself? How does this impact my response when others make mistakes?
  • When someone I lead makes a mistake, do I evaluate that based on how it impacts me, or how it impacts the person who made the mistake? What impact do the mistakes of others have on how I view myself and my role?
  • When someone under my leadership makes a mistake, is my default response to focus on my own emotions or the emotions of the person who made the mistake? How does that impact my leadership?
  • When someone I lead makes a mistake do I focus more in response on what I need or on what they need? How does this impact my leadership?           

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll look at how secure leaders develop others.

#368 Secure Leaders Embrace Differences

February 28, 2024 

Secure leaders serve those they lead by embracing differences.  Instead of being threatened by differences, they see differences as a strength.  The leadership team in Antioch was filled with five remarkably secure leaders.  

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3, NIV)

This team modeled how and why serving leaders embrace differences. 

Secure leaders embrace different backgrounds because they provide perspective.

This group came together from remarkably diverse backgrounds. Barnabas came from the island of Cyprus and was a Jew but spoke Greek. Simon (a Jewish name) and Lucius (a Latin name) were Africans and likely black. Manaen was a Palestinian with Greek background who grew up in the center of the political world in Judea. Saul, who would become Paul, was a well-educated Jew from Tarsus.  The team was clearly multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Their different backgrounds gave them the diverse perspectives they needed to lead the growing church in Antioch with its mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Their different backgrounds and perspectives made them a dynamic team.  Where there was a need for someone to speak in a Jewish synagogue, Paul was prepared. Barnabas could speak Greek. Manaen could speak to the Gentile politicians and Simon and Lucius could connect with immigrants. This diversity could have caused significant conflict, but these leaders were secure enough to embrace the different perspectives each brought to the team.

Insecure leaders see different backgrounds as a threat and a distraction. They look for people who think like themselves and see the world in the same way. But secure serving leaders serve by embracing those from different backgrounds.

Secure leaders embrace different gifts because they produce strength.

There were many different gifts represented in this circle of leaders, some were prophets, some were teachers. Barnabas was an encourager, a giver and a man of faith. He recognized the need to bring Saul to Antioch to help with the young church (see Acts 11;19-26). Saul was a strategic visionary. With the others, they were a strong team because of their different gifts.

Insecure leaders don’t readily accept and affirm the gifts of others. They feel threatened when others do things better. But secure serving leaders see different gifts as a strength. They acknowledge and affirm the value that other gifts bring. They serve by embracing different gifts.  

Secure leaders embrace different callings because they propel innovation.  

As the team worshipped and fasted it became clear that two were called to go. As they released Barnabas and Saul, they launched a new age of church expansion and innovation that would go to the ends of the known world!

Insecure leaders can’t see beyond their own work or envision greatness beyond themselves and their own calling. But secure serving leaders recognize that different callings can lead to innovative expansion. They serve by embracing different callings.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How diverse is my team in terms of backgrounds? Gifts? Calling? How does this impact my success?
  • In what ways can I encourage the different perspectives on my team?
  • Have I tended to bring around me people with gifts that are similar or different from mine? How has that impacted my leadership capacity?
  • How clearly have I recognized and affirmed the different gifts on my team? Who can I talk to today to express my appreciation for the gift they bring which is so different from mine?
  • What has been my attitude towards those whose calling is quite different from mine? Have I been able to bless and release these gifts in ways that produce new initiatives? Who on my team currently may have a call to something new and different? How can I encourage them to follow that call?   

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how secure leaders accept mistakes.