You’ve probably heard the term “servant leadership” before.
It’s a model of leadership that places more emphasis on service than on top-down authority. It’s based on distinctly Christian principles.
Leadership is often misunderstood. We think that leaders are the ones with titles and the power to get things done. The Signature Leadership Courses from Unbound, taught by Dr. Jeff Myers, challenge students to think of leadership as “influencing others to create change”. This recasts leaders as people of influence, regardless of outright authority or position.
How does this definition of leadership fit with the idea of servant leadership?
The Bottom-Up Model
Like I mentioned above, many people have a view of leadership that is primarily “top-down”. There’s one boss at the top and what they say goes. The higher up the ladder you are, the more power you have to direct the activities of those lower down the ladder.
Servant leadership in the context of influence proposes a bottom-up model. The more you serve, the more people trust you and the more influence you have.
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This, of course, doesn’t deny the organizational structure of leadership. Some people must be leaders and others must follow. Some must set the goals and vision and lead the rest in accomplishing those things.
But the bottom-up model of leadership gives people the freedom and opportunity to lead wherever they happen to land in the organizational hierarchy.
For example, let’s imagine a young person who works in an entry-level position in a company or ministry organization.
They may not be regarded as a “leader” due to their lack of position or authority in the organization. But they still have great leadership potential when they recognize that influence is not restricted to those with positions or titles.
They begin by serving anyone and everyone in the organization. They still have a specific focus on their individual responsibilities and don’t get pulled in all directions at once. But they foster an attitude of service.
As a result, they build trust with their coworkers, supervisors, and clients. That trust leads to influence.
In this case, it becomes clear that one can be a leader and a follower at the same time. One can exercise influence and create change while following the vision, authority, and direction of someone else.
This is an empowering principle for young people. In their season of life, they’ll probably find themselves under the direction of someone else. They’ll tend to be the ones implementing someone else’s vision. But through servant leadership they can build trust and be a person of influence who leads others regardless of their position or title.
Ascend by Unbound teaches students how to be people of influence and character while challenging them to lead in their actual communities. To learn more about how Ascend trains Christian leaders for the real world, schedule a call with our admissions counselors. They can answer your questions!
Jace Bower is a Copywriter for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.