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Leading with Love: Unveiling the Power of Servant Leadership

As part of our New Year's series of blogs,  Dr. Michael Houston shares with us his insights into the power of servant leadership. A dedicated and seasoned educator with over 20 years of experience in higher education and director of the Master of Organizational Leadership program at SNU, Dr. Houston is on a mission to revolutionize leadership education. His belief that leadership is rooted in a love for others, coupled with a commitment to the principles of Imago Dei, shapes a unique and transformative approach to influence and relationship-building.  Dr. Houston is passionate about guiding learners on a journey of self-discovery and empowering them to make a meaningful impact on those around them. 


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How well do you know the people around you? Do you know where they grew up? Do you know what their favorite food is? Do you know what worries keep them up at night? Maybe another way to look at it is, do you feel known? At SNU, we believe all people have value and should be known. The struggle often is that knowing someone takes time and hard work. Also, some people are easier to get to know than others, but a key essential to leadership is knowing others within your sphere of influence. In the Master of Organizational Leadership program at SNU, we offer tools that leaders may use to help jumpstart this knowing journey. 

Let’s pause for a moment and define what we mean by leader. We believe leadership is an influence relationship, so we don’t believe a leader is only a person with a title. In fact, some of the most important leaders in the organization are those without titles. Basically, we believe everyone has moments throughout their week where they are a leader…in that they have influence over another person. That might be in the home, at church, in the grocery store, or at work. Whether or not you view yourself as a leader, you need to know you are a leader to someone. So, this blog is for you!

You might ask, “What is the tool leaders may use to help know others and improve their leadership?”The answer probably will surprise you. The answer is love. You might not have seen that coming, but hang on just a second. Leaders who are able to love others will likely experience growth and development, not only personally but also with others throughout their sphere of influence. Far too often, we have cordoned off love for romantic or familial relationships. However, using love in leadership provides a powerful tool because love challenges you to know others, care for others, and put others before yourself. When you love someone, you care deeply about them. These might sound similar to the tenets of Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership model because they are. SNU calls members of the community to LiveLast Leadership. We believe leaders who serve others, care for others, and put others first are the best leaders, and love is a primary tool to help execute the Servant Leadership approach.

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You may be wondering, love is such an innocuous phrase or concept and how exactly does a leader use love as a tool? In the Masters of Organizational Leadership program at SNU, we teach students to use the Love chapter in the Bible as a guide. If you aren’t familiar with this passage, you’ve likely heard it read at a wedding. This 1 Corinthians 13 passage presents us with some extremely important concepts. Think and reflect on these 15 concepts and how leadership rooted in these might be the best leadership possible:

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love does not Envy, Love does not Boast, Love is not Proud, Love does not Dishonor Others, Love is not Self Seeking, Love is not Easily Angered, Love keeps No Record of Wrongs, Love does not Delight in Evil, but Rejoices in Truth, Love Protects, Love Trusts, Love Hopes, Love Perseveres, and Love Never Fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Let us do a little exercise. Replace the word love from above with the word leadership. Do you see it? How does leadership look through this lens? Leaders are patient, kind, not self-seeking or easily angered. Leaders protect, trust, persevere, and exude hope. Doesn’t this sound refreshing? How would you like to work for a leader who embodies this approach? More importantly, how would those in your sphere of influence, whether at work, home, or in your community, react to you embodying love in your journey together? 

At the beginning of this year, choose one love practice each month and work at implementing it into your life. You might just find that it will help you grow in your leadership and influence, and those around you will also be better off!

As the program developer and director, Dr. Houston seeks to help learners journey through a graduate leadership program that takes a different leadership education and training approach. He believes that leadership is rooted in a love for others and that the principles of Imago Dei govern our influence and relationships with others. Dr. Houston is passionate about helping learners understand who they are and how they may impact those around them.

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