Reward-Centered Leaders vs Servant Leaders

“Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”  Mark 10:43

The leadership model which we subscribe to is Servant Leadership, which we learned from Ken Blanchard and his book Leading like Jesus, and Owen Phelps with his book The Catholic Vision of Leading Like Jesus.  And of course, through Jesus himself.  Patrick Lencioni, a presenter at the Global Leadership Summit 2019 and a best selling author in the business world (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team), also believes in Servant Leadership and taught us what a servant leader is by describing the traits of the exact opposite of a servant leader, the Reward-Centered Leader.

There are 2 reasons people become leaders:

  1. To do whatever you need to do to serve the people you need to serve.
  2. For rewards like attention, status, power, money.

Your motive in being a leader SHOULD always be #1 above.  Option #2 won’t really lead.  It may get you where you want to go but will leave behind low morale, people stuck in unfulfilling jobs and decreased productiveness.

A rewards-centered leader looks for rewards for his/her work, or from his/her employee’s work.  The bottom line is what matters.  Reward-centered leaders:

  • Don’t like to have uncomfortable conversations.  They push them off to someone else.  They could use lessons from Sheila Heen on how to have a difficult conversation…but they won’t.  As you recall, Jesus had no problem having uncomfortable conversations with others.  From the pharisees and scribes to the rich young man, Jesus engaged in dialogue no matter which way it was going.
  • Don’t like managing direct reports.  This demotivates staff and they become political in their dealings with others.  Note how Jesus managed his disciples.  He met with them, taught them, corrected them, sent them out on a mission and gathered them back for mystagogy on their experiences.
  • Don’t like to run great meetings.  The cost of bad meetings is bad decisions.  If you don’t like to run great meetings, or hate meetings period, you should consider a change in occupation.  Jesus met often with his disciples and with large groups of people who came to hear him teach and heal.  He used meeting time privately with his disciples to explain parables and show them his vision.
  • Don’t like team building.  They feel it’s a waste of time.  Jesus’ time with his disciples was one big team building exercise.
  • Don’t like to repeat themselves.  However over-communication is a necessity in a parish.  People don’t remember but a small % of what they hear at a sitting.  It also helps to reiterate a vision and the work needed to fulfill that vision.  Jesus spoke repeatedly to his disciples of his coming crucifixion.  They didn’t understand it or believe it so Jesus repeated and repeated.

Consider why you wanted to be a leader.  Was it for selfish reasons, i.e. to get ahead, to be rich or powerful?  Or was it to lead people, to increase their self-worth and encourage them to be their best selves not only in the workplace but in general?

ConSpirita can help you grow into a servant leader.  Contact us for a free one-hour consultation.

“Servant leadership is the only kind of leadership there is.  Do not expect a reward.  This is not true leadership.”




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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.