The Influence of a Father: Servanthood

The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.

–  Eugene B. Habecker

 My father was born in 1927 into a rural family, the youngest of six children. It was the eve of the Great Depression, and he was helping out on the farm from an early age. As soon as he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After his discharge, he came back to Tennessee and built a gas station, which he operated for 44 years. His life was that of hard work, long hours, and low pay.

When you think of servanthood, do you envision it as an activity performed by relatively low-skilled people at the bottom of the positional totem pole? If you do, you have a wrong impression.

Servanthood is not about position or skill – it’s about attitude.

What does it mean to embody the quality of servanthood? John Maxwell thinks a true servant leader:

  1. Puts others ahead of his own agenda
  2. Possesses the confidence to serve
  3. Initiates service to others
  4. Is not position-conscious
  5. Serves out of love

All week long I have been reflecting on the life of my father by looking at some of his character qualities including passion and integrity. This final post is a look at servanthood, and that quality, among all others, epitomized my father.

My father would not describe himself as a leader, but he was. He led quietly – to the high school boys who worked for him over the course of four decades, to the customers who came to him looking for more than just gasoline, to the church he loved and served all of his life. He was a servant leader.

Good leaders do good things. Their lives matter. Servant leaders do great things. They help others’ lives to matter by serving them. Servant leadership is great leadership.

If you want to lead on the highest level, be willing to serve on the lowest.

H. D. Adams

08/09/1927 – 02/25/2012

He made a living by what he got; he made a life by what he gave.

reflections following my father’s death two years ago, and revisited now as my mother begins a major transition in her lifestyle

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