'CONGRESSMAN LEWIS' CHARACTER EMBODIED THE MEANING OF SERVICE'
A True Servant Leader
Servant leadership represents a crucial component of any efficient democratic government. Leader and servant often juxtapose one another, but the practice of servant leadership takes place when the characters of these two opposite terms are used simultaneously in an individual’s leadership style. In servant leadership, an individual is called to not only assist their group members but also called to provide a clear example that they can follow. This theory advocates that a leader’s primary motivation and role is to serve and meet the needs of others, which optimally should be the prime motivation for leadership.
Servant leadership is a belief that societal and organizational goals will be achieved on a long-term basis only by first facilitating the growth, development and general well-being of the individuals who comprise the masses. It is therefore a leadership style that emphasizes leaders who actively attend to the concerns of their followers and empathize with them. The best test of the leader is whether those served grow as people and whether they eventually become healthier, wiser and more able to become servant leaders themselves.
John Lewis was such a leader. Despite the vast array of concepts used to describe servant leadership, some consistently mentioned descriptors are: leading by example, providing a clear vision, and also maintaining humility. Patterson (2003) developed a model which comprises seven dimensions; agapao love, humility, altruism, vision, trust, empowerment and service. Three of Patterson’s seven dimensions personify John Lewis, a national treasure: agapao love, humility and service!
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Agapao Love is a Greek phrase meaning kindness and empathy. The deeper meaning refers to someone unconcerned with the self and concerned with the greatest good of others. Agapao does not just come from emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but will and freedom of choice. Lewis was a young man in the 1950’s during the height of the Jim Crow era when he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement. He did so, because he wanted a better life for everyone. He endured the brinks and water cannons because he was concerned about the civil rights of others!
Humility is an attitude and acknowledgment by the servant leader that they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and that others may have more knowledge and experience. Ferch (2005) argued, “one of the defining characteristics of human nature is the ability to discern one’s own faults, to be broken as the result of such faults, and in response to seek a meaningful change”. John Lewis showed the epitome of humility when as a staunch supporter of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he considered the health of his party, and adjusted his presidential support to align behind the Barack Obama campaign. Recently, his humility was evident once again as he gave his full support to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
- Congressman John Lewis
Congressman Lewis’s character has embodied the meaning of service. When doctors revealed that he had a terminal illness, most would have asked to be relieved of their duty. John Lewis instead promised to return to work.
John Lewis truly defined the term servant leader!