Being a leader changes everything. Before you are a leader, success is all about you. It’s about your performance, your contributions. It’s about getting called upon and having the right answers. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. Your success as a leader comes not from what you do but from the reflected glory of the people you lead”–Jack Welch

Reading and reflecting this morning on Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, I thought it might reinforce my own commitment to movement building by wrestling with the notion of servant-leadership. Larry Spears, a protege of Robert Greenleaf and champion of Greenleaf’s work on Servant-Leadership, argues here that **servant-leaders display the following ten behaviors.** (In my own reading about movement leaders like MLKjr or William Wilberforce, each behavior was present. As you launch and build church or para-church movements, use Spear’s work as a grid to evaluate and improve your own leadership.)


Far too often leaders assume the role of expert, believing that their title, position or experience demands the role of “answer man.” All genius rests in them. All communication thus flows out and down. Servant-leaders, on the other hand, realize that the “genius is in the room.” As James suggested to the leaders of the early church, leaders should be quick to hear and slow to speak as well as hesitant to assume the role of teacher. “For who is truly wise and understanding among us?” (James 1:19; 3:1ff). Servant leaders apply the meekness of wisdom–drawing out the “genius” of others.


In my own journey, I’ve become aware that I lack empathy. Empathy means that one is deeply cognizant of the other’s perspective. (Sympathy in contrast suggests an affinity with or judgment of the other’s perspective.) Lacking empathy, leaders are often driven by a narcissistic assumption that everyone is merely an extension of me. Those I lead are like members of my body, an arm or leg to do my bidding. Spears argues that servant leaders are empathic; they seek to both understand and acknowledge the perspectives of others. Others are separate from me; they have thoughts, ideas, feelings, value. An emphatic leader uses his or her sensitivity to build a nexus between the desires and aspirations of separate individuals and the larger collective or movement.


Henry Ford once lamented that even though he needed only the services of his employees’ hands, he unfortunately had to hire the whole person*. Often in leadership, we’d love for those we lead to just “perform” as expected. We’d be happy to just get their “services.” In reality, we lead “whole” persons who bring their whole self to the table–with all its personal messiness and brokenness. Servant leaders recognize the reality that “we are all broken people living with other broken people in a broken down world (P.D.Tripp). In turn, they realize–without becoming therapists or counselors–that the work of building movements can be a forum for individuals to elevate their lives. As Spears elaborates: “Many people have broken spirits and have suffered from a variety of emotional hurts. Although this is a part of being human, servant leaders recognize that they have an opportunity to help make whole those with whom they come in contact.”


In pointing out my lack of empathy, a counselor added that I’ve got additional work to do in the area of “self-awareness.” Lack of empathy seems to go hand in hand with poor self-awareness. We don’t “know” others or ourselves. And it’s hard to serve and lead others without self-awareness, without the ability to lead ourselves. Harvard psychologist Daniel Goleman argues that: “The ability to manage yourself — to have self-awareness and self-regulation — is the very basis of managing others, in many ways. For instance, science has learned that if you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in other people. And if you can’t fine-tune your own actions — keeping yourself from blowing up or falling to pieces, marshaling positive drives — you’ll be poor at handling the people you deal with. Star leaders are stars at leading themselves, first.”


Servant leaders realize that mandating behavior, based on some formal or hierarchical authority never really works. They must persuade. In WWII, Russians commanders often set up machine guns behind their troops shooting any Russian soldier who retreated or refused to fight the advancing enemy. Dwight Eisenhower recognized the futility of such an approach, writing: “I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Servant leaders in whatever environment marshall their listening, empathy and self-awareness to “persuade,” building an environment of mutuality, in which leaders and followers become a community of friends in the pursuit of a great cause.


How we conceptualize the future is critical to servant leadership? Leaders are often more comfortable with short-term horizons, falsely believe that thinking about today or tomorrow, this quarter or this year is more important. The reality is “we accomplish a lot less in a year than we think and a lot more in five years than we can imagine.” Servant-leaders stretch out the time horizon and invest in shooting for something big. As they lead, they speak of dreams, of what could be–helping facilitate a commitment to bold collective visions. They say, as Martin Luther King Jr did, “I have a dream that one day….” As they do so, leaders and followers get captured by that “could be” and experience what Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”


Foresight is the ability to see the future, in such a way that the leader and the led know what to do. Peter Drucker asserted that foresight is the leader’s lead, arguing that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Servant leaders stand at the intersection of the past, the present, and the future. Using the experience and lessons of the past, leaders stay focused on the two futures–the probable future and the preferred future. For the servant leader with foresight, these two futures help determine the present. The “foreseen” probable future represents what will “probably” happen if nothing is done in the present. The “foreseen” preferable future, on the other hand, drives the leader toward action in the present. Applying the insights of the past, the collective wisdom of his/her team and the foresight garnered from playing off in his/her mind the probable and the preferred futures, the servant leader acts in the present to create that preferable future.


Servant-leaders recognize their role as stewards first of all people. Leaders guard the interests of others; they champion others before themselves; they put others in the center. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner articulate: “Leaders we admire do not place themselves at the center; they place others there. They do not seek the attention of people; they give it to others. They do not focus on satisfying their own aims and desires; they look for ways to respond to the needs and interests of their constituents. They are not self-centered, they concentrate on the constituent.”

Commitment to the Growth of People

As stewards of those they lead and serve, servant leaders are committed to help others grow and develop. They believe their people present a nearly inextinguishable supply of potential (JG), building an environment in which that potential can begin to emerge. According to Greenleaf, the litmus test of servant leadership is the following: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

Building Community

In a recent article, Dave Soliel contrasts the typical single heroic person whom large groups of people follow with the reality that it’s a community at the heart of leadership, not a hero. All leadership is mutual–a process of community. Leadership is powerless without community. Martin Luther King, Jr did not march for freedom and equality alone–he was a visionary voice of the collective effort of hundreds of thousands of people. Since servant leaders see leadership, not as a person, but as the collective action of a community, they see every person as critical. They empower, engage, release responsibility to others. They see their main role as “building a company of friends in the pursuit of a great cause.”

(Thanks for James Grinnell review and reflection on Spears’ work ideas here).

We spend several sessions discussing the “language of leadership” at our Gettysburg “If Properly Led” Conferences, arguing that the leader has a “palette” of words by which he paints visions in people’s minds. Our primary examples were Abraham Lincoln arguing for “new birth of freedom” at Gettysburg in 1863 and Martin Luther King, Jr arguing for “that dream of freedom was still unrealized” 100 years later. ”

Nancy Duartel, on her blog, analyzed MLK Jr’s “I have a dream” speech and found that the speech was “not only literarily brilliant, but its structure follows a presentation form perfectly.” A presentation form (as in the diagram below) traverses back and forth between what is and what could be, ending in MLK’s speech with an description of the new bliss of equality.

In a previous post, I commented on Lincoln’s similar eschatological flow:

Lincoln’s leadership (as well as his speeches) seemed structured by an historical/existential/eschatological flow. In other words, he led from a sense of “what was right and wrong” about the past, from “what could be true in the future” while retaining an unrelenting commitment to “act in the present.”

Perhaps as we cast vision for movements everywhere, we need to adopt a similar form. We cast an “above the line” vision by traversing back and forth between “what is” and “what could be.” If you look at the speeches of leaders who have brought real change thru their words, you’ll almost always see this tension of “what is” and “what could be.”

For example, here’s what I trying out.
Today there are over 1600 community colleges where 60% of all colleges students in the US begin their college education. Right now, there are very few “transformational” movements on these 2 year campuses. The rapid turnover of students is most often blamed. What if, however, we tapped into the natural leadership potential and student orientation of the faculty teaching at these schools? What would happen if we found and encouraged faculty at these CCs to become missional team leaders? It’s happening already. Take a look at

Nancy Duarte, also analyzed MLK Jr’s “I have a dream” speech in terms of rhetorical devices, coloring each block of text between the crests and peaks of “what is and what could be.” She color-coded the blocks of text to highlight these rhetorical devices: blue stands for repetition; pink for metaphors; orange for political references and green for familiar literature and songs, from Scripture to “America”

You can see that there’s lots of blue and green here, especially at the end as he is riffing on “America.” But what’s really fascinating is how much pink you’ve got everywhere. We know that MLK was an expert at using words as a paintbrush…but seeing this speech in graphic form, you can see how often he resorted to “visual language” to hammer home his point. Leaders, in other words, when they speak, they “think pink” — metaphorically speaking.

As we discussed at Gettysburg, Aristotle once reminded us: “the greatest thing of all is to be master of metaphor.”

Think pink.

Eric posted some excellent reflections on “Rethinking Campus Ministry–Everyone Sent” — provocative stuff. For example, here’s a excerpt turning our normal approach of “moving with movers” on it’s head:

My observation is that movements cannot be built based on a concept that promotes shrinkage rather than growth. What could we do to invert the pyramid so that each group of students, because of the excitement and life-change they were experiencing, would be inviting their friends to be part of a movement so that each succeeding class was larger than the class before…inverting the pyramid. How could this happen? — Eric

So how could this happen on campus or on our military base or in our work environment? Read the rest of Eric’s post here.

Movement Day.png On September 30th, in New York City, several organizations are hosting “a gathering of leaders to catalyze Gospel Movements in their cities.” It’s called Movement Day. I’m hoping to be there. Tim Keller, Bill Hybels, Brenda Salter McNeil and Ray Bakke will lead plenary sessions. The exploration of “Movements” continues to inspire greater understanding of Gospel-driven change while helping develop innovative approaches to that end.

In a recent article, Tim Keller talked about movements–illustrating some of the clear thinking going on around the concept of movements. Read the full article, but here are some highlights as Tim compares the vital dynamic in movements with its lack in institutional approaches to change.

  1. A movement is marked by an attractive, clear, unifying vision for the future together with a strong set of values or beliefs. The content of the vision must be compelling and clear so that others can grasp it readily.Such visions lead to sacrificial commitment by everybody involved. Individuals put the vision ahead of their own interests and comfort. Keller argues that “there is no more practical index of whether you have a movement or not. If the leader is making all the sacrifices, you don’t.”In contrast, “institutionalized” organizations are held together by rules, regulations, and procedures, not by a shared vision.

  2. Vision-marked movements experience a generous flexibility. “The accomplishment of the vision is more important than power and position; everyone is willing to make allies, be flexible, and cooperate with anyone sharing the basic vision and values.”In contrast, institutionalized organizations are very turf conscious. “Members are suspicious of anyone encroaching on their area of responsibility. Positions and power have been hard-won and jealously guarded.”
  3. Vision-marked movements are innovative. Unified and empowered by commonly shared vision, movements are “flatter” by nature and thus ideas “flow out of the whole organization, top to bottom, bottom to top.” Anyone with a good idea about how to accomplish the vision is welcome to give it.In contrast, Institutions are organized more vertically, where ideas from “below” are unwelcome.
  4. Finally, a movement is marked by spontaneous generativity. Keller writes, “spontaneous combustion means energy generated from within — a conflagration without the need for external ignition. A movement is able to generate its own resources, recruit its own new members and participants, and (especially) raise up its own new leaders.”In contrast, institutions devoid of vision must recruit staff raised up in other environments and attract them mainly with good compensation.

Keller quotes David Hurst, a Harvard scholar, who summed up how movements become institutions:

vision becomes strategy,

roles become tasks,

networks become organizations,

recognition becomes compensation.

Keller warns, however, that we must not get the impression “that all authority, central control, and formal processes are bad for ministry. The reality is more complex.”

As time goes on, to maintain the main engine of movement-dynamics – a unified vision — a ministry must adopt some of the aspects of institutions. A strong movement, then, occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics – authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control — will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two opposite perils.

Dr. Tim Keller is the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, NY and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Tim Keller visit Redeemer City to City.

I can’t help but make the connection between movements in history and God driving Christ-followers toward the frontiers of “brokenness”—toward those places where Jesus doesn’t fully rule and reign. Love this visionary piece from the Levi’s “go forth” campaign. It’s the kind of “vision-casting” that would help build movements and drive Christ-followers toward bringing Kingdom change in the broken places. Reggie McNeal may have something in his definition of ‘missional’–“The people of God, partnering with God, in his redemptive mission in the world.”

Having recently returned from Haiti, Lecrae’s Far Away continues to bring tears to my eyes and cause me to wonder if, the church has work to do, that “things are somehow broken on purpose.” That God is working a redemptive purpose in which all of us who name Jesus as King should be engaged.

Got busy with our efforts at Kingdom change in Haiti; forced into a blogging hiatus on “movement building.”  Still reflecting on the lessons of “movements” and helping bring Kingdom change to Haiti…hope to comment soon. I’ve included a recent report to ministry partners (Tri-Lakes Chapel) on the rather tough time we had in Haiti. Official report begins at 17 minute point after I’ve unpacked some thinking on 4 Chapter Gospel and its rationale for understanding the wide breadth of the gospel’s role in Haiti.

Haiti Report: Living in the 4th Chapter here

Haiti Video to go with Haiti Report

More Haiti Photos

I’ve been reflecting on a challenging lecture by Willaim Deresiewicz, given to the freshmen class (plebes) at West Point last October. He highlights the temptations to “climb the slippery pole of hierarchy” in today’s bureaucracies, becoming technocrats instead of leaders.

Using excerpts out of Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, he brings out how easy it is for brightest and best young people in organizations to get trapped in “company behavior”–defined as “rules and procedures and ranks and people in power and people scrambling for power.” Such bureaucratic characteristics, especially the love of routine, robs the organization (organism?) and its “leaders” of the ability to think well, to innovate, and to change. Movements die from the inset of bureaucracy….as Dr Bright and others once warned, “Movements become machines and finally turn into monuments.”

Deresiewicz uses the following description of the “Central Station Manager” in Conrad’s novel, to show what happens to young people caught up in “climbing the slippery pole of bureaucratic hierarchies:”

He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy—a smile—not a smile—I remember it, but I can’t explain. . . . He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts—nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . a . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. . . . He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? . . . He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going—that’s all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause.

In the rest of his article, Deresiewicz challenges the plebes at West Point to become “leaders, not technocrats”. Using his arguments, I’ve adapted his suggestions for our purposes of building movements. I believe his warnings will help us define the kinds of leaders who are at the heart of launching and building change movements—kingdom movements.

1. Beware of the Temptation to “Just go along, to Originate Nothing, to Just Keep the Routine Going”

We have to be careful, after 60 years of existence as Campus Crusade (or better, the 2000 years of the Christian church), of just keeping the routine going. Deresiewicz warns that bureaucracies breed not excellence, but a spirit of going along.

That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. … excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that, like the manager of the Central Station, you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.

We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going.

Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them.

Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them.

Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place.

What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise.

What we don’t have are leaders.

What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers.

People who can think for themselves.

People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things.

People, in other words, with vision.

2. Become a Person of Vision, a Person who can think for himself

Deresiewicz warns that leaders must be careful of “marinating themselves in the conventional wisdom.” He suggest that we don’t take the time in solitude and in reflection enough to escape the “cacophony in which it is impossible to hear our own voice.” Or as Emerson warned, leaders must be careful of traveling so much “with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of other’s opinions.” Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.

3. Read Books with Greater Reflection and Concentration

According to Deresiewicz, leaders must be more selective in their reading and in the way they are reading. He argues against the superficial nature of our reading today (browsing the internet, micro-blogs, soundbites, etc), and opt for books, especially “old” books. C.S. Lewis gave the same warning…for every new book you read, read an old book. Books have certain advantages over the quick access and intake of today’s information age. Of course, it’s not the book per see. “Sometimes, you need to put down your book, if only to think about what you’re reading, what you think about what you’re reading. But a book has two advantages over a tweet,” Deresiewicz argues.

First, the person who wrote it thought about it a lot more carefully. The book is the result of his solitude, his attempt to think for himself.

Second, most books are old. This is not a disadvantage: this is precisely what makes them valuable. They stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today. Even if they merely reflect the conventional wisdom of their own day, they say something different from what you hear all the time. But the great books, the ones you find on a syllabus, the ones people have continued to read, don’t reflect the conventional wisdom of their day. They say things that have the permanent power to disrupt our habits of thought. They were revolutionary in their own time, and they are still revolutionary today.

(If you want to be challenged further in this regard, read Sven Birkett’s article on Reading in a Digital Age)

Such reading doesn’t happen without solitude. Such solitude leads to introspection, to knowing oneself better. Such knowledge in turn leads the leader to a greater courage to speak up with needed, to challenge the direction of the organization, to avoid just going along. Reading well leads to “self- differentiation”, which Edwin Friedman argues is what leads to real leadership nerve.

[For someone who loves today’s technologies, I struggled with Deresiewicz’ point here. Yet, at the same time, I’ve loved the old books as well. In the middle of reading “Bleak House” by Dickens, I’ve finding it ponderous in places but I’ll never forget some characters: Mrs Jellyby, the “telescopic philanthropist”, whose Africa project keeps her from charity at home or Mrs Pardiggle’s “abrasive charity” toward the poor. I think I’ll use Mrs Pardiggle’s section to train our staff and students this summer in Haiti in what “Christ -like compassion should look like and not look like.”]

4. Have Meaningful Friendships in which we Can Think Out loud

In a counterintuitive point, Deresiewicz argues that leaders need meaningful friendships. While friendships appear the opposite of solitude, Deresiewicz suggests that deep friendships in which intimate conversation takes place over long, uninterrupted ways lead to an environment in which one escapes the dulling effects of bureaucracy. Emerson, himself, argued that “the soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude.” Deresiewicz goes on to say:

Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things—to acknowledge things to yourself—that you otherwise can’t. Doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask. Feelings or opinions that would get you laughed at by the group or reprimanded by the authorities.

This is what we call thinking out loud, discovering what you believe in the course of articulating it. But it takes just as much time and just as much patience as solitude in the strict sense.

How are you doing at building leaders who can think for themselves? Who are doing more than just going along? Who are men and women of vision? Who read well? Who pursue great causes in the company of meaningful friends?

[William Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic. His article “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of

Love this video; love how Scott Harrison and the folks at charity:water are building a movement around water. We have much to learn from them on the blending of gospel words and deeds.

I really like the line where the Haitians’ say

…. we are ready to give you our courage…

For those of us who believe in “integral mission”–the inseparable nature of the gospel’s kingdom focus in which for Jesus to be Lord at all, he must be Lord over all –this line reflects the “courage” needed in the church to work with brothers and sisters around the world to make Jesus King in every heart and in every place.

Just started reading Dewi Hughes’ book, Power and Poverty: Divine and Human Rule in a World of Need. He concludes with these words, words that describe the heart of movement leaders thru out history.

Better to die in the service of a kingdom that will never end than live comfortably in an empire passing away. It is better to listen to the crying now and respond in prophetic speech, prayer and acts of love, because we belong to a kingdom where there will one day be no more crying, than shut our ears and say and do nothing because we belong to a kingdom in which crying will never cease.