Servant Leadership: Why we need it now more than ever.

As I pen these words, we are either in the beginning or middle of what is known as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. This morning, like several recently, I awoke thinking of some visits needed to important people, cousins in Ireland, connecting with my wife, currently stranded in Massachusetts, my grandchildren, and family in the UK. Within moments of course, I realized that this is not possible. As we are now in a “Stay at Home” order in the state of California, and I remain, with a few essential workers and the Passionist priests behind a locked gate. A gate that protects us from others and others from us.

Usually, we wake in the morning from a dream and then step into reality. Today it felt like the reality was a movie and the dreams were normality. I say this not to complain, but merely to observe the times and challenges we face. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is a call to leadership. A call to be selfless, to be there for others, to separate ourselves from others, and yet still find ways we can support those in need. Their needs have just become more acute because of the crisis. This remembering of a call brought me to a topic which has been much on the lips of many in this situation, the call of a leadership style called Servant Leadership. What is that, and how does that relate to me?

Responding To Christ

“and whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all.” (Mt. 20:27)

At times like this we have a tendency to surround the wagons, protect those close to us, and in a way, become selfish. So much about our situation today is antheical to a normal response, we cannot gather in the normal way, but we can communicate. We cannot share in a traditional manner, breaking bread together at the table, even receiving the Eucharist has become a visual event, not a physical one.

Yet, we must remember that grace flows from the within as well as from the traditional sources we hunger. God is within us, His grace is there waiting to be tapped into. To be exported to those who need it. In words, prayer and actions.

Servant leadership gives us a clue of how we align our response. We receive love by giving love. We gain happiness by sharing with others. We only truly receive by giving.

Let us remember the call in Matthew 20:27, we can only receive by serving others. If you want to examine yourself, Jesuit style, take a look at the ten principles of Servant Leadership as practiced today, and check out how you are using them in this crisis.

The Ten Principles Of Servant Leadership

• Listening

• Empathy

• Healing

• Awareness

• Persuasion

• Conceptualization

• Foresight

• Stewardship

• Commitment to Growth

• Building Community

Reflection, Poem and Photograph Copyright 2020 by Michael J. Cunningham OFS

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