Superhero or Servant?

Grab a Towel presents a contrast between two types of leadership: the superhero and the servant. I am constantly reminded of the importance of this distinction – whether considering leadership in politics, business or church ministry.

In the extreme, the superhero is the problem-solving, all-knowing, charismatic character who secures a following in order to accomplish their goals and dreams. Servant leaders, on the other hand, exist primarily to help other people fulfill their potential. Robert Greenleaf, writing on servant leadership in the 1970s, describes the contrast as follows:

The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions… The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

In Grab a Towel, I present the following contrasting extremes between Superhero and Servant leadership.

The challenge is, in a culture that expects leaders to be superheros and where many leaders get caught up in the aspirations of personal success and climbing the corporate ladder, how do we begin to adjust our thinking with regards to becoming a servant leader?

Maybe it begins with each of us engaging in some introspection. What is our motivation to be a leader? Are we seeking the applause of others? Do we think of ourselves more highly than we should? Are we genuinely looking out for the interests of others? Who are we seeking to emulate? What do our followers really think of us?

And so I give you a challenge. Revisit the table above and consider where you are on the continuum between being a superhero leader and being a servant leader… and consider what adjustments you could make to better serve others and, in consequence, become a better leader.

Grab a Towel is a resource to help you grow as a Christ-centred Servant Leader. For purchasing or to contact me, click here.