Servant Leader: Is that a Paradox?

When you stop and think about the term “Servant Leader”, it really does appear to be a paradox. From our conceptual understanding of language, we are led to think of a servant as one who is “serving” and a leader as the one who is in “power.” The two words together seem to cancel each other. They are a paradox… the appearance of perfect contradiction.

In reality, the term Servant Leader is a leadership style that emphasizes trust, integrity, communication, and the ethical use of power. This leadership style comes from both intrinsic traits as well as learned skills and is viewed as a life-long process of being, learning, and doing. And while at first glance servant leadership appears to be paradoxical, it is the true essence of leadership.

The Paradoxes of Being a “Servant-Leader”

Strong enough to be weak
Successful enough to fail
Busy enough to make time
Wise enough to say, “I don’t know”
Serious enough to laugh
Rich enough to be poor
Right enough to say, “I’m wrong”
Compassionate enough to discipline
Mature enough to be childlike
Important enough to be last
Planned enough to be spontaneous
Controlled enough to be flexible
Free enough to endure captivity
Knowledgeable enough to ask questions
Loving enough to be angry
Great enough to be anonymous
Responsible enough to play
Assured enough to be rejected
Victorious enough to lose
Industrious enough to relax
Leading enough to serve

Poem by Brewer — as cited by Hansel, in Holy Sweat p 29, Dallas Texas, Word, 1987.

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