SERVANT-LEADERSHIP: THE FREEDOM OF STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
by Theresa Lawson, RN, with Cathy Fairbairn
The term “Servant Leader” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990), founder the Center for Applied Ethics, which eventually became the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. He authored the book Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. According to Greenleaf, a servant leader is one who makes sure that the other person’s highest priority needs are served. To function as a servant leader, you must overcome temptations and learn to step out of your comfort zone.
Putting Others First. Putting others’ needs ahead of our own needs (or wants) can be uncomfortable. We are almost always tempted, in various ways, to remain in our comfort zones, to sidestep any inconveniences, and to avoid any suffering.
Yet stepping outside our comfort level is inconvenient and can cause some internal suffering. Even so, the saints certainly did it. There’s no question that putting the needs of others before our own comfort level is one big way that we grow to be Christ-like.
Overcoming Fear of Rejection. I’ve discovered in my home-based business that some of the temptations to stay in my ‘comfort zone’ center around avoiding the risks of reaching out to family members and close friends. I dislike rejection, especially from family and friends. I have experienced fear—fear that if I share my company’s business opportunity and products with family and friends, I may experience the discomfort of rejection. I finally realized, through prayer, that Christ is the supreme example of rejection. No matter how many times he was rejected, he continued to love people, to reach out to them and to serve and heal them. How could I do any less if I want to follow Him?
Adopting a Better Perspective. I have had to step out and learn to do cold-calling. When people don’t answer their phones after several attempts to contact them, the temptation to quit trying was strong, especially at first. Many times the thought crossed my mind, “Oh, they probably think I’m bothering them,” or “they don’t want my services,” or “they are avoiding answering the phone because they don’t want to talk with me.” But I soon realized that these are all just temptations.
I have learned that no answer may simply mean a person is busy. Their answer may be a “yes,” but I just don’t know it yet. When I do connect with them, these busy people are often grateful that I haven’t given up on them.
Persevering with Resolve and Purpose. I have had to persevere through difficult situations and deal with difficult people. It isn’t easy, but if through God’s grace, I can persistently come alongside the difficult person and help he or she to arrive in a healthy place, then wonderful things happen. I can help them build a more financially secure place, and can give them genuine hope that things can be better. If I allow God to do so, He can use me to help transform that person’s life and the lives of others within that person’s sphere of influence and care.
Changing Our Thinking. Recently I had one customer who became a business partner of mine, a young mother of six, who stated that the best results of using our company’s products was the peace that it brought to her household. Her children had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and thanks to our nutritional products they were now calmer and no longer grumpy because they were feeling better physically. My customer was feeling better, too, and the resulting peace in her household was a real joy for her. That was a joy for me too.
If you can share with people a vision of better family relationships and peace in their homes, you tend to no longer be intimidated by initial internal negativity. When I take the time to help people to feel better physically and mentally, their spiritual life often improves too. Therefore, a big part of getting out of our comfort zone entails a change in thinking.
We can’t judge people. We can only work with them where they are. We can’t know why people act the way that they do. Instead, we CAN change our thinking. We can choose to think the best of that person instead of fearing the worst.
Becoming God’s Hands and Feet
Getting out of your comfort zone is important, because it frees us to truly become God’s hands and feet. If you don’t get out of that comfort zone, you won’t be available to Him.
God wants people to be radical. We need to swim upstream, go against the tide. This discomfort is an opportunity to grow in virtue, in charity. As a servant leader you can help foster a culture of life. You do that by serving others as a representative of Christ, so that His love can flow through you to others.
How to Begin
With prayer! Ask for the grace that others may see Christ shining forth in you and that “I” may disappear. Make it about others. Pray for the grace to be relaxed and truthful, to help your customers develop a sense of trust with you (and of course, be trusteworthy).
Frequent the sacraments. They are the Powerhouse for your work and home life. When you have a servant’s heart, you want to help others, you need to reach out. I laid it all down to the Lord: “If you want me to do this, Lord, show me how to do this business.”
Lead by Example. If you are in the nutrition business, for example, it’s all about changing your own lifestyle with adequate exercise, proper nutrition and proper sleep. Without prayer, I would have been tempted to give up long ago, even in this area of leading by example.
First, be a good Follower. Interestingly, to be a servant leader often requires that you must first be a good follower—not only a good follower of Christ, but also a good follower of learning the products and systems of your business. This requires true humility, admitting you don’t have all the answers. You have to be teachable, with a mind to teaching others how to become servants, too.
There’s no room for cynicism in success. Instead, be open to learn, to ask questions in trust that you will receive truth in response. Embrace any training opportunities in order to learn more about the company and the products you’ll be helping people with. Eventually you will be training others, so this solid foundation will be useful for the long haul. Stay closely connected with your team and support resources. In a business such as ours you are in business for yourself, but not by yourself.
If you think you can do it all on your own, you will certainly fail. Instead, really listen to your mentors, and to the needs of those you are trying to help.
Become committed to stepping out of your comfort zone. Meet people where they are. Bind their wounds. Love them first. Meet them where they are and address their physical needs as a human being first, then lead them down the path of finding Christ and his Church through your personal example of servant leadership.