Reflections on servant hearts and servant leaders: themes for honoring emergency responders in anticipation of 9/11 observances.

Questions to consider, referring to scriptures such as Matthew 5:38-45
& Romans 8:35-39

  • Whom do you serve?
  • In what ways are you a servant leader?
  • Whom do you know who has a servant heart?


I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” ― Mother Teresa

Love isn’t the work of the tender and the gentle;
Love is the work of wrestlers.
The one who becomes a servant of lovers
is really a fortunate sovereign.
Don’t ask anyone about Love; ask Love about Love.
― Rumi Jalalu’l-Din

Characteristics of Servant Leaders (adapted from a Scout site)

While traditional leadership styles accumulate a great extent of power at the top rungs, servant leadership puts other people’s need first and shares power with them.

A servant leader actively contributes in the personal development and performance of their team. Here are 10 characteristics and traits that distinguishes a servant leader …

1. Empathy

A servant leader has the ability to recognize and understand feelings and emotions that are experienced by their team. Such a leader will care for other people and will deeply experience emotions that match what others are feeling. Since they understand others so deeply, their actions are motivated by a genuine desire to help others.

2. Listening

By paying complete attention to what others are saying, servant leaders are able to get a complete understanding of all interpersonal situations that they are dealing with. They use active listening to resolve conflicts, counsel others, and also to impart training.

3. Awareness

Many people in positions of power are blissfully ignorant of their shortcomings, but not the servant leader. They are completely aware of their strengths, weaknesses, values, emotions, and feelings. This self-awareness allows the servant leader to understand personal biases and set them aside while making decisions.

4. Healing

Followers typically desire for a leader who has a sincere interest in fostering their emotional and spiritual well-being. By taking an active role in promoting the mental and emotional strength of their employees, servant leaders typically inspire an exceptional level of trust and faith from others.

5. Conceptualization

An important quality of a servant leader is their ability to conceptualize, or imagine the possibilities of future and reconcile it with current realities. This ability helps the leader visualize a bright future, and take the necessary steps to get there.

6. Persuasive

It is easy for a servant leader to influence the opinions and actions of others through persuasive skills. This quality comes in handy in negotiations with business partners, customers, and stakeholders. Since servant leaders are committed to the welfare of others, they use this ability only to influence others positively.

7. Stewardship

A servant leader acts as a steward for the organization’s resources. They assume complete responsibility for planning and managing all available resources for the betterment and prosperity of the organization, employees, and stakeholders.

8. Foresight

Everything is connected – the past, the present, and future. Servant leaders have an intuitive ability to predict what is likely to happen in future, based on the past and the present. This foresight enables these leaders to plan ahead.

9. Community building

Under a servant leader, people come together for a common purpose. They are able to create a feeling of belonging to something bigger than each individual, and foster team spirit and a sense of community. Servant leaders also deeply care for this community that they create.

10. Committed to growth of others

A servant leader takes it upon themselves to develop others. They are likely to help employees chart out a clear career path and provide them with resources to progress from one level to the next.

Adapted from Buddhist prayer:

May I become at all times,
Both now and forever,
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those
who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

Prayer attributed to St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense,
let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord,
let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair,
let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness,
let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
Let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that one receives,
It is in self-forgetting that one finds,
It is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
And it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

New Ethics for a Small Planet (excerpt)— Dalai Lama

By inner values I mean the qualities that we all appreciate in others, and toward which we all have a natural instinct, bequeathed by our biological nature as animals that survive and thrive only in an environment of concern, affection, and warm-heartedness—or in a single word, compassion. The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being. This is the spiritual principle from which all other positive inner values emerge. We all appreciate in others the inner qualities of kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and generosity, and in the same way we are all averse to displays of greed, malice, hatred, and bigotry. So actively promoting the positive inner qualities of the human heart that arise from our core disposition toward compassion, and learning to combat our more destructive propensities, will be appreciated by all. And the first beneficiaries of such a strengthening of our inner values will, no doubt, be ourselves. Our inner lives are something we ignore at our own peril, and many of the greatest problems we face in today’s world are the result of such neglect.

An Easy Way to Tell If You Have a Servant Heart (excerpt) Michael Bird

An easy way to tell if you have a servant heart is how you act when you’re treated like a servant. Do you see some services as beneath your calling, are you willing to go wherever you’re needed, or would you do any job that needs to be done even if crowds won’t throng to thank you and even if your achievements go hardly noticed?

Servant Heart Notes Lauren D’Alassandro

There’s something so humbling about this realization. God’s delight in me has nothing to do with my own greatness, my own talents, or my own sacrifice. There are people who will influence millions and people who will influence five other lives. Our purpose and usefulness has nothing to do with the quantity of works we produce. It has everything to do with our decision to make ourselves available to God. Before we had desires, he had desires. Before we made plans, he had a plan. Are we making ourselves available to God as vessels? Are we saying to him, “You can use my words, my actions, and my body to communicate to your children?”
If you want to hear God’s voice, there are two qualifications that God is looking for. Without these things, your progress will be hindered.

  1. Are you available to listen?
  2. Are you willing to obey?

… Are you ready to hear God’s voice more clearly? Here are three steps you can take right away to get started.

  1. Ask God to speak and believe [God] will. (Matthew 7:7)
  2. Make time for silence. Choose activities that enable you to meditate, such as walking, being in nature, going for a drive, or listening to music (there’s not a right way – it’s whatever works for you!).
  3. Pursue God and wait for [God]. [God] desires pursuit just like you do! If [God] doesn’t seem to act right away, honor [God] by waiting patiently for [God’s] response.

The most important aspect of hearing from God is… It’s the relationship. God is searching for people who will listen not just because [God] desires us to do [God’s] will, but because [God] wants intimacy with [God’s] children.

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