[COLUMN] On being a humble servant-leader

“It’s a given,” I told someone last week. “It’s a given that when you’re a leader, you’re bound to suffer.”

“Then why should I be a leader?” this person remarked.

“Well, if you want to make a difference in people’s lives, if you want to make positive changes in the society or the community, then you need to lead,” I answered. “And that comes with courage and ability to undergo pain and suffering from working with conflicts and dealing with difficult issues and people.”

“That’s what it means to be a servant leader,” I explained. “You’re willing to take risks, speak   honestly, take constructive criticisms, listen to people, learn from mistakes, work collaboratively, be a team player, delegate responsibilities, and be   a life-long learner.”

“And you can only be this kind of leader if you have a humble heart,” I added.

This recent conversation with this person came to my mind as I reflected on the Scripture Readings this Sunday (January 29). “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility,” the Book of Zephaniah tells us. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, the Kingdom of God is theirs,” the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel remind us.

Indeed, servant leadership entails humility to serve God despite all the challenges and suffering we encounter. It involves serving ungrudgingly and willfully. But it’s also realizing that God chose us to lead or serve despite our imperfections. Hence, we find consolation in the words of St. Paul in the    Second Reading this Sunday: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.”

Servant leadership is about embracing the spirit of the Beatitudes. It’s being poor in spirit, relying on God’s mercy and power because we cannot do everything solely through our human efforts. We need divine grace to surrender everything to God. And, of course, we need other people’s help.

It means being able to “mourn”— not being afraid to be vulnerable, human, and authentic. Surprisingly, that’s how we feel connected with people. As Brene Brown points out well:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful lives, vulnerability is the path.”

Servant leadership is having a courageous and resilient heart to face any trial, persecution, and false accusation. It is believing in one’s pure intentions for the sake of the well-being of others and the common good.

Servant leadership is speaking boldly about the truth for the sake of justice but with openness to dialogue, empathy, and mutual understanding.

Let’s take this challenge of humble leadership! Let’s do it for the glory of God!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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