Servant leaders are careful and responsible as they manage things entrusted to their care.BSA NYLT Syllabus, module Servant Leadership
We are all given a sphere to manage, an area of responsibility, a place for impact. Some of it is chosen, some of it comes by position, and some by necessity. All of these, however are entrusted to us to look after.
Entrusted is a special word – I think of it as transferring an object of value from the owner, who never relinquishes ownership, to one that has to protect and care for this value. I also think this is a time-based concept, in that there is a beginning (the delegation), and an ending (the eventual return).
Two real-life examples of entrust
Children are a family’s form of entrust; they are never completely owned by parents, yet they are protected, cared for, guided, and yes, even managed by parents. While under our care, we hold a high responsibility to develop them into adults of character and competence. Once adulthood is reached, we hand off their development as a return of their independence.
Money is another area entrusted to us, as it seems we never own it, as much as we would like. While under our care, we are to manage it, to use it, and allow some to grow. Eventually, we all must return money to others, even at our life’s demise.
Entrusted to Stewardship
Stewardship is the way we carry out this entrust; it focuses on the fact that we aren’t the owner – merely the one responsible. Servant leaders are conspicuously aware that they don’t exercise control, rather they exercise influence:
Servant leadership, like stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion, rather than control.Larry Spears Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders
An example from Jesus
Jesus taught many truths in parable format (using pictures and then-known examples, like agriculture).
In this way, Jesus told a parable (in Matthew 25:14-30) about a rich person giving money to his servants, and leaving on an extended trip – with the implied expectation to do something with it. Even the assignment was customized to the ability of the servant – some received more than others.
One servant was given $5,000 to work with, and the parable said he went to work and doubled the investment.
Eventually, a reckoning happens:
““After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’”Matthew 25:19-21 The Message
As you can see, being faithful to multiply the investment (as in taking risks, watching over, and developing) led into an even greater role with the master.
However, those who want to keep to themselves, to hoard their energy and effort, also have an example in this parable. One of the servants just buried the smallest sum, and returned it to the penny to the master. To say the master was furious, well…:
“‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’Matthew 25:28-30 The Message
We are called to take this gift we are given to serve, and do something with it. This is the entrust given to us, and it is up to us to steward it.
Summing it up
Servant leader uses stewardship entrusted to us, to persuade others through awareness and empathy to go well beyond, and build on the investment given to us. It is a high calling, one that will require us to take risks (conceptualization mitigated through foresight), knowing that we answer to one higher than us.