My daughter and I often have wonderful discussions while traveling in the car. During a pause in one such conversation, a thought came to mind; the word servant is within the word observant. The prefix -ob means “toward or turning to”, and servant means “someone who is watchful and attends to something or someone”, so the word observant basically means “toward or turning to being someone who is watchful and attends”. In other words “to turn one’s eyes off self in order to see and do what needs to be done or simply to notice what’s going on around you”. A good servant must be observant, right? But then I considered how a good leader must also be observant as well.
A friend sent me a link to an article about how some people approach an attempt to prove the Bible is or is not reliable based on Old Testament chronology. The difference is in their approach. What does that have to do with being observant? Well, the article mentioned two methods of approaching the subject: the inductive method and the deductive method. It said, “Broadly speaking, deduction starts with principles, whereas induction starts with observation, that is, with evidence.” See? Did you notice? It mentions observation and caused me to consider how a good servant and a good leader must both be careful not to assume things about those they are serving and leading. They must not start with their own preconceived ideas or prejudices, but they must be watchful and attentive to what they actually observe. Just as in science, a good scientist doesn’t start with his or her own preconceived ideas or prejudices either, but must be observant to draw factual conclusions based on empirical evidence. So, too, must a good servant and a good leader base his or her conclusions by observing and examining all the evidence and thus, judging righteously.
Ok, so what does that look like in practical terms? Well, parents are both servants and leaders to their children, right? Have you ever, as a child, been wounded by a parent when he or she jumped to a false conclusion? Or has a boss or spouse jumped to conclusions and passed judgment before even talking to you about it? How did it make you feel? And did it help the situation or make things worse? No one likes to be misjudged. On the flip side, have you ever been tremendously blessed when someone met a need, gave you the perfect gift, or saw something in you that no one else had seen?
A good servant observes the needs and desires of those being served. A good leader observes the talents, strengths, weaknesses, and needs of those being led. True leaders are observant servants. Aren’t Christians taught that if we desire to be leaders, we must first learn to be servants? And wasn’t Jesus the greatest example of all?