Values of a Great Team: SERVE
There is nothing more beautiful than seeing team members serve one another—everyone doing their utmost for the rest. But sometimes it is difficult to understand and explain what it really means to serve. Allow me to share some thoughts about the meaning and practice of serving others.
The concept of service as it relates to great leadership is beautifully described in the Bible. Mark 9:35 says, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” (NIV)
That’s servant leadership. Many have written about it, including my friend and mentor Dr. Tony Baron in his book, The Art of Servant Leadership. In his personal emails to me, Dr. Baron always closes with, “For the Sake of Others.” Isn’t that the true calling of leadership and the true calling for a life of giving? A commitment to sacrifice for the sake of others.
Even with these clear and concise phrases about serving, it is sometimes difficult to understand practically, what serving others means and what it doesn’t. For instance, how does one serve another person in a modern day organization? To answer this question, let’s begin by identifying what serving does not mean.
Serving Does Not Mean…
When we talk about serving others, the word naturally lends itself to images of a lowly house servant, a custodian, or maybe a groundskeeper. We may think of a servant as a person of inferior social status, maybe a hired hand, underling, or subordinate. We may even imagine servanthood to be related to slavery. If we go with these images, we may have a negative connotation for what it means to serve—that somehow a servant is one who is demeaned, disregarded, or disrespected.
That is not what is meant by serving others and living a life of service. I don’t think that is what Jesus meant either. We are not talking about a submissive person cowering under the oppression of a master.
Serving others in a healthy way—as a servant leader, or a servant team member—is becoming a person who is always willing to do whatever it takes, including the lowliest jobs, so others can succeed. Serving others is about a person’s disposition, not their position.
Serving others is a way of life. It is not what you have to do because of an oppressive master. It is what you choose to do because of your love for others. Serving means laying yourself aside for the benefit of others. Serving others is a matter of the heart and a life of giving which we choose to live.
Serving on a Team Means…
Let’s examine what it means practically speaking, to serve others as a value of a great team. Here are a few statements to examine and apply at the leadership level first. They are:
- You shine; I will back you up. You get the better spot, the better job, the better work shift. What will I do? Back you up. Can you imagine if you had a culture where people openly did that for each other?
- You rest; I will do the hard work. I am willing to do the dirty work, the hard work, the dangerous work, and the annoying work. What can I do to lighten your load?
- You watch; I will do what is scary. Don’t feel afraid or defeated. Allow me to help you, to guide you, or to humbly show you the way.
- You be safe; I will take the hit for you. If someone is attacking or blaming you, remain steady. I will stand up for you. I will defend you in the face of criticism.
- You receive; I will give to you. What are you lacking? What do you need? Allow me to freely give to you whatever I can offer.
Serving others does not mean patronizing them. It means being willing to help them in any way possible as they traverse the terrain of life. And so, servant team members do things without thought of reward or gain, other than the pleasure of knowing they had the opportunity to help someone. They fulfill the needs of others before their own. They walk the earth not seeking the spotlight, but seeking to know in their hearts that they helped one of God’s children today.
The Benefits of Serving Others…
That phrase may seem like an oxymoron. How can you talk about serving others while thinking about the benefits you get? Well, we must not serve others because of the benefits we get, but because it is the right thing to do. However, when serving others becomes the culture of a team, or when you apply it in your own life, you will naturally see these rewards:
- A culture of mutual appreciation.
- An atmosphere of warmth.
- People around you feel supported, loved, and cared for.
- Everyone succeeds more, together.
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, I think he was communicating and modeling this message: As we walk this amazing and difficult journey together, I will do anything that is necessary to make sure you are taken care of.
And He did—even in death. That’s serving others.
Actionable Step: Decide if you want to adopt the value: We serve others. If you do, discuss it with the key leaders of your organization, then the entire team. As a group, define it with your own words so it will begin shaping your culture.
About me: I just finished reading the Nonprofit Board Answer Book by Rovert C. Andringa and Ted W. Engstrom. I recommend it for anyone who would like to learn more about building an excellent board.
For Further Reading: