Who was one of the most influential people in your life? I’d be willing to bet that person used the following two phrases often.
One of the most influential people in my life was a construction foreman. His name isn’t important, what is important is the fact that he knew the importance of these two phrases. He might not have always verbalized them, but his actions and attitude showed he was familiar with them. He was always willing to serve and if I didn’t need his help at the time, I knew I could depend on him to help in the future if necessary.
I’m going to guess that the most influential people in your life have been people who were willing to help you. Perhaps they never vocalized their offer, but you knew they’d assist you in any way possible if necessary.
Inexperienced leaders, on the other hand, are more concerned with what their followers can do for them. In their eyes, those under their leadership should do everything in their power to help them.
Jesus knew that and turned that whole way of thinking upside down. He emphasized serving others, not being served. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. (Mark 10:45) NIV.
Let me illustrate. In the movie Glory, Matthew Broderick plays the role of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, during the Civil War. Without spoiling the plot, Shaw was not a great leader to begin with. He was more concerned about himself and his legacy rather than the welfare of his men. A transformation begins to take place during the movie when he realizes his mens feet are raw due to poor footwear. You’ll have to watch the movie, to find out what happens….but here’s a take away.
The most influential people in our lives are the ones who know our needs. Not only do they know our needs, they meet them.
The way they discover our needs is by watching and listening.
One particular way they listen is by asking questions, which leads us to the two transformational phrases. Before we look at them, there’s one more type of leadership we need to look at.
First there are reciprocal relationships. These are easy to monitor and you can easily predict when they are ‘headed south’. The kind we’re talking about are based on performance. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. I jump through the hoop, you give me a prize. I obey, you give me a treat.
This type of relationship is quite prevalent, especially in the working world today. How do you know when they’re beginning to sour? Somebody stops keeping their end of the bargain.
If you’re leadership is reciprocal, your influence begins to wane the minute you stop keeping your end of the bargain and/or others do the same. With reciprocal leadership, you see, people get really good at keeping score.
Second, there is redemptive leadership. Redemptive leaders serve their people despite their performance. Their aim is to redeem the people and organizations they are part of. They understand that transformation takes time and they realize the importance of serving their people over the long haul. Rather than commanding people to obey them because of their title, they earn the loyalty of their people through continued service.
Here are the two questions they ask.
1. Is there anything you need? Quite often after we ask people to perform tasks, a long period of time passes during which their is little or no follow-up. During that time, you assume the person is having no difficulty whatsoever because they are achieving the intended results. In the meantime, that person may feel that although they are getting the results, you could care less about them. They may begin to believe you are more concerned with the results than you are with them as a person. Asking them if there is anything they need reminds them that you care and provides an opportunity to help them if necessary.
2. Please keep me informed. Surprisingly, most people do not need your help. When you volunteer your services, they will tell you things are going well. However, while they may not need your help at the time, it’s comforting for them to know that you are willing to help them in the future if they need it.
Again, maybe the people who were most influential in your life never asked you these two questions (verbally). However, you knew they were willing to help you if necessary.
So, are you a reciprocal type or redemptive? Don’t beat yourself up if you’re part of a system where every relationship is reciprocal. Being reciprocal is a necessary part of every relationship. If you don’t believe me, stop providing your family with food and a warm place to live. Or go to the super market and try buying a banana with pocket lint. Reciprocity is king in the consumer world. However, reciprocal leadership, while vitally important, is not the whole deal.
It’s not surprising, but when people know that you care, their performance soars. Of course, that’s not the reason you care for them, however it’s not a bad bonus.
You know the saying ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play”. Not always true. The people you serve will perform at their highest potential when you are absent because they know that you love them. To do otherwise is unloving on their part.
Maybe, just maybe you are serving others and looking for ways to serve them better. Great! In the meantime, just because you serve others it doesn’t necessarily mean they will serve you. People can be plain selfish, especially bosses.
Rather than embracing their reciprocal leadership, continue to serve them. Jesus said no matter what, don’t look for other people to serve you, you serve them!
When we stoop to the level of others, everyone loses. Despite how you are received, continue to serve.
The most influential people in your life were people who you knew were concerned with your well being and willing to help you whenever necessary.
Are you meeting the needs of others? Do others feel like you have their best future in mind?