As coaches we use many unique skills and spiritual gifts in building our ministry or business. However, we are all called to participate in God’s greater purpose for our life as servant leaders.
What defines a servant leader?
While our culture tends to recognize leaders as those with a particular skill set or personality, servant leadership isn’t based on talent or position; rather, it’s God’s high call on everyone’s life who is committed to following Jesus. This includes parents, corporate executives, and coaches. Servant leaders aren’t born, they are developed through a willingness to put others before themselves, and be transformed by intentionally living in God’s will and being obedient to His Word. Ultimately, it’s about the heart. Unlike traditional leadership models that focus on building one’s own power and influence, the servant leader’s greatest desire is seeing others achieve God’s best for their lives, even if it means sacrificing their own agenda.
Christian coaching aligns with this approach in that the client is considered the expert, and God’s will is paramount. The coach’s role is to stand in the gap and assist individuals in furthering their goals. Regardless how much knowledge or experience a coach has, the intention is to see God glorified through others. When a client succeeds, a servant leader isn’t envious or require sharing the spotlight–rather he is on his knees thanking God he had a part.
Henri Nouwen writes of Christian leaders: The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross. This might sound morbid and masochistic, but for those who have heard the voice of the first love and said “yes” to it, the downward-moving way of Jesus is the way to the joy and peace of God, a joy and peace that is not of this world. Here we touch the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future. It is not a leadership of power and control, but leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest.
While there are plenty of resources to learn about servant leadership, Jesus is our role model. He embodies what it means to truly give your life for another. His life and death illustrate that why we lead is far more important than where we lead, or how many. It all comes down to motivation. What draws you to coaching? If your greatest desire is to serve God by caring for others, then you are a servant leader.
How can coaches lead with kingdom influence?
Whether you are certified coach or praying about becoming one, start by considering those individuals who have had the greatest impact on your life: Who inspired you to help others reach their potential through coaching? What qualities do these individuals possess? Integrity? Faith? Commitment to excellence? Humility? Oftentimes we are most inspired by those with strong character, versus an impressive position or large platform. A true leader makes the right decision even when no one is watching, and it shows in every aspect of their public life. Andy Stanley calls this powerful quality “moral authority” — and it’s our most valuable asset as coaches and leaders.
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”Hebrews 13:7
Ask God to help you invest as much effort into building your character as you do into growing your skills as a coach. Perhaps start with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patiences, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Stop and pray, asking God to show you where to concentrate on cultivating your influence through who you are over what you do. How can you bring these qualities to your coaching sessions?
In addition Christian coaches can lead by:
- Trusting in God’s greater purpose over personal desires and gain.
- Being humble (teachable) and committed to the process of becoming a better person, not a perfect one.
- Championing your client’s success over your own.
- Committing to obeying God regardless of the cost, in your private and professional life.
- Pointing to Jesus as the ultimate source of knowledge and power.
- Knowing your true Identity: You are a child of God over your title, any other calling Jesus has assigned you.
- Foregoing competition: Build your business on your core values and God-given strengths, not on what other coaches offer that you can’t. Model servant leadership in your community by praying for other coaches to succeed as well.
- Meet with Coach Jesus on a regular basis. Listen to the questions he is asking you.
Your Life is Your Ministry
Servant leaders aren’t born, they are developed through challenges and opportunities. Character is cultivated in the fine stitching of our lives but becomes apparent under duress. As a coach, your greatest opportunity to influence others is born of how you handle obstacles – including failure – not what you are able to accomplish.
What trials are you undergoing? How can you lean into God in such a way that this season further defines you as a servant leader? If the answers aren’t apparent, ask God.
Building a principled life doesn’t require an impressive resume; in fact, the most influential leaders often bring nothing to the table but a deep faith in the goodness of God and a commitment to becoming more like Christ, regardless of the cost. The Bible is full of examples of servant leaders God selected long before they had any “job” experience, or even moral authority. Then, they spent their lives being refined and developed to grow into the leader God envisioned. David was still a shepherd when Samuel, at God’s request, tapped him to become the future King of Israel. Moses was an aging murderer and fugitive; and Paul – the most prolific writer of the New Testament – was a violent legalist until Jesus met him on the road and gave him spiritual sight. All three men continued to “boast” of weaknesses throughout their lives, but demonstrated dependence on God.
God equips the called with what’s needed in the moment. If you are willing to show up to the task at hand, God will develop the leader inside of you for the calling He has assigned you. Over time you will acquire more skills, but what God regards as critical is the condition of your heart.
Regardless of your past or your doubts and concerns about your future, God is inviting you to become a servant leader through your call to coach. God loves leaders who are still in the process of becoming.
Servant leadership is the narrow road and runs countercultural to what the world expects, but the return is far greater. By adopting the above principles you can have a far greater impact as a coach and draw closer to Christ. Coaches who follow Jesus’ model of servant leadership descend into greatness. What greater honor than to serve others in such a way that their greatest desire is to know Christ?
How do your core values align with servant leadership?
What is God asking you to change in order to be more influential as a coach with kingdom influence?