I just finished re-reading a blog post written in 2009 by a colleague of mine, Dr. Jeff Hale. In his blog, Dr. Hale posited a notion that true leadership means "going forth to die." He established his thesis by recounting the leadership example provided in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. By historical and faith accounts, the Lord served as an original member of the "Godhead," humbled Himself by taking the form of man, then chose to offer Himself in payment for the sinful transgressions of human beings. Based on this example, Dr. Hale suggested that: (a) true leadership has more to do with commitment than results and (b) many in leadership look to gain abnormally high levels of successful results by only investing nominal levels of courage. In that regard, Ms. Elizabeth Gerhart (personal communication, March 23, 2011) observed that Dr. Hale and his colleague appear to have attached a name and formalized a definition for this type of sacrificial leadership. She offered: "One of the most complete definitions is presented by Hale and Fields (as cited in Schminke, 2010, p. 37), who defined servant leadership as 'an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader, emphasizing leader behaviors that focus on follower development, and de-emphasizing glorification of the leader.'" From these, I find myself asking at least two questions: (a) taking the a priori position that Jesus consistently served in the role of leader (not necessarily a foregone conclusion), did His sacrifice originate out of leading or out of following? In other words, would His death have meant anything to people who failed to recognize Him as a leader, but only as a follower? and (b) does the leadership commitment discussed by Dr. Hale in his blog require the immediate results associated with sacrificial death or the ongoing results associated with living a life of service? Heroes die daily and often under tragic circumstances. However, I would argue that living a life of true service to others forms the great sacrifice in modern Western cultures. Additionally, I would also argue that by definition, we should consider those people servant leaders who offer that sacrifice, regardless of the roles in which they serve.
Hale, J. (2009, April). Leadership means go forth to die [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://goforthtodie.blogspot.com/2009/04/leadership-means-go-forth-to-die.html
Schminke, M. (2010). Managerial ethics: Managing the psychology of morality. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis.