Servant Leaders or Coercive Managers

In my work with law students and others about discerning vocation, we talk a lot about servant leadership, and I’ve written about it here in the past (for example here).

In a Lent reflection for the University of St. Thomas community yesterday, Dr. Michael Naughton, interim director of UST’s Catholic Studies Program, wrote on this subject.  Referencing Jesus’ command that “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,” he shared the distinction between servant leaders and coercive managers drawn by Bob Wahlstedt, co-founder of Reell Precision Manufacturing, here in St. Paul, MN.

Wahlsted describes the discintion as follows:

Servant leaders have followers; Coercive managers have subordinates

Servant leaders encourage debate; Coercive managers inhibit debate

Servant leaders build consensus; Coercive managers make decisions

Servant leaders ask; Coercive managers order

Servant leaders grow people; Coercive managers utilize people

Servant leaders listen to understand; Coercive managers listen to prevail

Servant leaders share credit; Coercive managers take credit

Servant leaders say “we”; Coercive managers say “I”

It is a good checklist.  Whether in the context of your work environment, your ministry or otherwise, you might reflect on what is the central tendency of your approach.

To modify the prayer Dr. Naughton ended his reflection with:  O Lord, give us all servant hearts. Give us the grace that our work serve not ourselves alone, but also the common good. Amen.

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One thought on “Servant Leaders or Coercive Managers

  1. Is not the distinction between leader and manager a universal dilemma? Leader often portends a transformative journey shared while manager often defines accomplishments and/or achievements scheduled and defined.

    Similar to religion’s dilemma. . . How difficult to shepherd, without often passing judgment on the heart’s actions and intentions of another – gentleness a graceful blessing (also) often at odds with love’s inclusive truths. . .

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