ULS President’s Newsletter | Fall Term 2018-19
Volume I, Issue 11
What is your image of leadership? Do you think of people in military uniforms? Corporate presidents and C.E.O.’s? Or, do you think about Mother Theresa helping those living in poverty? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading with love to greater equality? College and Seminary Presidents and Deans? Pastors of our churches?
In today’s society, popular images of leadership are sometimes associated with aggressive business leaders or politicians: Assertive people projecting an aire of “toughness”, acting in their own narrow self-interest, not afraid to act in inappropriate ways, and hurting the feelings of others to achieve their material, monetary, or personal goals. These leaders divide and conquer instead of unifying and serving.
Servant leadership is another style of management. What is a servant leader? “The servant-leader is a servant first. Beginning with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first” (Robert Greenleaf). Servant leaders don’t lay down the law; they listen with empathy and collaboratively create policies and practices that make sense for all involved. Servant leaders don’t browbeat and threaten; they reframe if necessary, adjust when needed, and treat opinions and people with respect. With servant leaders, it’s never “my way is the only way”; it’s “let’s find our way.” Sometimes, of course, servant leaders can’t find a solution that pleases everyone. However, disappointed groups and individuals are always treated with dignity, grace, and love.
This is a model drawn from the Gospels embedded in the actions and words of Jesus Christ. Just as the term “servant leadership” is a paradox — how can a servant also be a leader? —much of what Jesus taught is paradoxical. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt. 20:16). “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5). Matthew points out that the Lord or God will judge the righteous based on how they treat “the least of these” because, paradoxically, how people treat the least is, to Jesus, the same thing as how they treat the King himself. (Matt 22:31-46). Just as servant leaders do, Jesus led by example, urging his disciples to love each other “as I have loved you.” (John 15:13). Ultimately, Jesus led from below, suffering the punishment of the lowest in his society that he could lead all of humanity to the worthiest goal of all: Eternal life in God.
This is our challenge here at ULS, a challenge we set for ourselves as administrators, faculty and staff, and one we extend to all members of our community. How can we lead by listening? Who among us is unheard? How do we hear their voices? How do we lead with empathy, compassion, and justice? We are not perfect, but we are committed to a new vision of leadership — paradoxically, also thousands of years old — and we hope we can bring this institution, and this complex, fallen world we all live in, into this vision as well.
Gentle Lord, we ask you for the humility to lead as your son Jesus led. We ask for the insight to discern what’s best for all in our community, and in our complex world. We ask for the patience to listen to all who need to be heard, the wisdom to hear those who have often been silenced, and the strength to lead all of our sisters and brothers to your Kingdom. All this we pray in Jesus’ name.
Significant Events and Updates
- Spent Labor Day with my family.
- Preached at chapel on the Gettysburg Campus
- Met with Dr. Christine Kennedy and Warren Young about some exciting and important programming for Faculty, Staff, and Students at ULS.
- Had a wonderful conversation with Dr. Sharon Kelly, an alum of LTSG.
- Spoke with the Dr. Jonathon Green, President of Susquehanna University, about a potential partnership.
- Participated in the Seminary Ridge Historical Preservation Foundation.