By Bev Kauffeldt, Samaritan’s Purse Liberia
“Servant leadership” has been a catchphrase in leadership circles for many years. There are many definitions floating around in the business world, churches, sports, and politics. In most cases, leaders want to serve those they are leading, but may not always know the best way to carry this out. For some, however, this is a new and very challenging concept, especially for those with beliefs and cultural customs where leadership is a license for power.
One of the teachings that we do in our Samaritan’s Purse post-Ebola programming in Liberia is servant leadership training with local community leaders. The motivation for this program stems from many community leaders stating that they didn’t know how to lead and protect their community during the Ebola crisis. I remember very vividly talking to one clan chief who was apologizing for running our staff out of their town during our Ebola campaign. Unfortunately, their community lost many people to Ebola. He sorrowfully stated, “We were confused, scared, and didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what was best for our people. We are sorry.” My heart broke for this old papay. You could see the sorrow and regret he carried with him.
Much of the training focuses on the Biblical teaching of Jesus and how He taught what real leadership is. One of the lessons caught my attention when I was reviewing the curriculum. The lesson is based on Mark 10:42-45 where Jesus addresses James and John, who are seeking the world’s view of leadership—a high position in heaven next to Jesus. That’s exactly how the world views leadership: it means being powerful, self-promoting, and served by others. Worst of all, it means being focused on yourself rather than those you are serving. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His followers a different way; some would call it revolutionary or a counter-cultural way of leading. Christ’s definition of leadership focuses not on yourself, but defines success as serving others first and taking the time to identify with people—serving to lead.
As our staff go through the servant leadership lessons, they work through how they can better serve their community and, most of all, how can they better lead their community through a future traumatic shock like Ebola. Servant leadership is about serving others every day while God might be preparing you for a time of crisis when He needs you to lead people through a tough situation. All those days of serving to lead will give people the confidence to follow you through a crisis. You will be able to lead with love to the point of sacrificially giving of yourself to keep others safe through that crisis.
Fallah Assah, a young Liberian man participating in leadership training with Samaritan’s Purse, said, “I have been encouraged by the leadership training because it provides the practical knowledge and skills for leaders. I am the youth leader in Mendicorma and the knowledge and skills I have acquired from this training has helped me carry out my leadership responsibilities with courage and patience.”
It is our prayer that leaders like Fallah will continue to follow Jesus in their leadership. There may be a time when Fallah is called upon to be that courageous leader in a time of crisis. There may be a time when he has to be patient with those he is leading to safety. It is our prayer that he will be serving to lead through every situation.
Please continue to pray for our staff as they teach and that the hearts of the leaders in these classes would be touched by the teachings of Jesus and be serving leaders for their communities.