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Summary: One of the key attributes of Servant Leadership is listening. Many times we fail to listen to others and to God.

Servant Leadership Part 5


Preaching is the art of talking in some one else’s sleep

We start sharp at 9.30 and end dull at 11.30

In 1974, at the North Presbyterian Church in Minnesota, USA, one member of the congregation was Art Fry. Art Fry used to work as a scientist with 3M company. He was having difficulty in focusing on the sermons being preached. So he started to day dream. He was frustrated because he could not mark the Hymn books without messing them up. He devoted considerable thought to that and used the sermon time to figure out a solution. The Post-it notes was a result of that contemplation during the Sermon time. No one is sure, if Art told his pastor about what he really was doing during the sermons, but a lot of people sure are glad that he used his time wisely during the sermons. So if I see some body dozing off during today’s sermon, I will just assume that he or she is thinking of some great invention which will benefit mankind.

Those of you who have visited our home would have seen Leslie’s terrace garden. Among other plants, we have some fruit trees there. And we have some squirrels that frequent our garden due to the fruit trees. It is fascinating to watch the conversation that goes on between Leslie and the squirrels. Leslie wants to protect her fruits, while the squirrels want their food. Leslie covers up the plants with nets to protect them, but the squirrels find a way of reaching the fruits nevertheless. I admire the squirrels for one thing. You see God has created them with their special body parts of their teeth and their paws and they use these very effectively to gain what they need to sustain their lives.

Today I am going to speak about some body parts that God has given us, and challenge us to evaluate how effectively we use them in our lives.

Let us begin with a small exercise. I will read out a statement. Please listen to the statement carefully, and then I will ask a question regarding the statement. You need to answer the question.

Here is the statement: “ You are a bus driver. You drive 3Km to the south, and then 4 Kms to the east. You pick up 9 passengers. Then you drive 2 Km to the north and then 7 Kms to the west. Then you drop off 5 passengers.”

I will repeat the statement once again.

Now the question: “What is the age of the driver?”

How many of you have got the answer? How many of you think it is not possible to calculate?

Let us ask some one who got the answer. What is the secret here? How did we miss one word which is repeated five times in the statement?

Do you see how listening could be difficult? How many of you are married here. How many of the wives think that their husbands listen well?

My messages in this congregation have been about Servant Leadership, and Listening is a key Servant Leadership attribute, and I would like to explore together why

In my very last message here, I spoke about the fact that Servant Leadership is about others. Encouraging and helping others grow healthier, wiser, richer, more famous etc than ourselves. If we have to really help some one else, we should be able to understand that person’s needs and requirements. This cannot happen unless we are able to listen. We have also seen how Servant Leadership differs from the traditional Power and Authority model of leadership. In the Power and Authority model of leadership, the leader speaks and the “subordinates” listen, and obey. Not so with Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership is about knowing and meeting the legitimate needs of others. Last week, I attended (along with Ashish) a meeting of leaders who were concerned about corruption in Churches and Christian organisations. In the outcome of our deliberations, one thing was very clear, that the root cause of this could be that many leaders of today do not understand or practice Servant Leadership. When leaders begin to consider them selves as VIPs, and start to alienate themselves from the “others” problems begin. Even leaders who confess to being “accountable”, end up with “one way accountability”. They would like the congregation to be accountable to them, and them being accountable only to their superior in the organisation or to God himself. In my family, when some one invites me for some function, they generally say, being Leslie along, and I tell them Leslie takes orders directly from God and so I cannot promise that she will come along with me. Well, coming back to the leaders who consider themselves accountable to God only and not to human beings in the congregation, the problem is that those leaders become so detached and removed from knowing the needs of the congregation or their employees that they reach a point where they don’t care. This leads to all sorts of actions aimed at consolidating their positions, amassing wealth and other vices that we all know about. The sad thing is that this is as rampant in Churches and Christian organisations. The solution to this is a “two way accountability” that servant leadership promotes. The leaders need to be accountable to the people they are called to “serve”. This can become successful only when leaders are able to “listen” to their flock. If we are to become successful leaders, successful servant leaders, we need to be able to listen. When we do not listen, we convey very negative messages like I don’t care about you, I don’t understand you, You are wrong, you are stupid, you are wasting my time, etc., Traditionally, leaders have been valued for their communication and decision making skills. Servant-leaders must reinforce these important skills by making a deep commitment to listening intently to others. Servant-leaders seek to identify and clarify the will of a group. They seek to listen receptively, and respectfully to what is being and said (and not said). Listening also encompasses getting in touch with one’s inner voice, and seeking to understand what one’s body, spirit, and mind are communicating. It is estimated that 80% of our success in learning from other people is based upon how well we listen.

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