Organizing, Part 1: A Strategy for Servant Leadership

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11 NIV).

Do you ever go to start a project and find yourself cleaning your house instead? It’s amazing how many things can keep me from doing the creative things I really love. It usually starts because I’m missing one thing I need to get moving on my project, and in the process of finding that thing, I end up trying to organize the junk drawer or using granite cleaner to scrub the island in my kitchen. Have you been there?

Some women master the art of organizing and post pictures of their organized spaces all over Pinterest, which distracts me even more as I then spend my valuable time posting their pins to my “Organizing” board. Who am I kidding?

Many aspects of organizing allow us to serve more effectively. A home free of distractions can help us focus on things that matter: spending time with God, being with our families, and taking needed rest. We get energized, and that allows us to better serve others. In the office and in our ministries, however, it’s just as important to keep from getting distracted in menial work. 

We can’t completely avoid the mundane, but we must commit time to the creative, inspirational work that serves our clients and our community.

Administration is an important aspect of organizing and an often overlooked spiritual gift essential for servant leadership.

Used effectively, administration benefits ministry when leaders have a heart to serve and seek God’s agenda. Melanie Van Laningham, a servant leader at the Global Center, Samford University, shared how the motivation in the heart of the administrator is very important to the outcome of the project. 

When we use our gift of administration to serve God and those around us, others reap the benefits, too.

 1. Administrators who are willing to work with people gain new perspectives.

On the show Undercover Boss, someone from upper management goes undercover to find out how employees do their jobs. While the managers try to do those jobs, they often find workers who want to do an excellent job, but who sometimes need a few more tools to do it more effectively. These administrators gain new perspectives and an understanding of the challenges the employees face in order to perform their jobs well. 

Organized projects allow employees to easily step in and serve. When it works, it is usually because the administrator used her gifts to think carefully about how to serve the employees, and then made sure to provide what they needed to get the bigger job done. When it doesn’t work, the lack of administration rarely goes unnoticed. 

You may have seen this in action. I saw it one morning when a group of volunteers were bused to a venue to serve the community. They arrived ready to work but ended up watching the person in charge do the work while they tried to offer suggestions of ways they could assist. Unfortunately, the person in charge chose to try to serve the community alone, instead of serving those who had been sent to help.  

In her motivation to get things done by herself, her heart was not focused on the people who came to help her.

2. Administrators who see the whole picture find the critical areas that need attention.

Our office loves to invest in interns, and as a Christian organization, we think carefully about how interns spend their time with us. We want them to leave having their name published in an article or a blog or on a product of some kind. This means that effective supervisors choose not to have interns doing all of the busy work that they can’t seem to get done otherwise. Interns don’t file papers or run out to get coffee. They won’t be scrubbing cabinets or cutting tiny pieces of paper for a project. Instead, they’ll be learning who we are so that they can create a usable product that we really need. Supervisors take time and invest by giving interns good work to do that will cause them to learn as they work. While the supervisor might be tempted to give interns the menial tasks, they look instead at the bigger picture to see how the intern can contribute, and in turn, interns see servant leadership in action. Supervisors remove barriers to getting the job done.

Gifted administrators do the same. They look for critical areas that are keeping employees distracted from the main tasks and then they find ways to remove barriers so that creative employees spend more time creating and providing quality products and services. 

The motivation at the heart of the administrator is to take care of the critical situations that can affect the whole staff. This type of servant leadership can be difficult and takes practice.

3. Administrators who keep the goals of the company in mind can help employees know how they fit.

Some of us have been blessed to work with good administrators who value their employees and take time to set them up for success. They do not quickly hire new people, but rather they wait for the right fit. When they find it, they describe the job and do what they can to support their employees. 

As changes occur, they communicate the goals to the staff and help them understand how they fit into the changing organization. These administrators know that when employees know their value to the company and feel safe, they excel and produce work the company needs to meet their goals.

These administrators make sure the company’s goals include ways to show appreciation and value for their staff. 

Employees expect these administrators to have high standards, but the value these employees receive from administrators who are motivated to serve speaks louder than a pay check.

As administrators gain new perspectives, find the areas that need attention, and help employees know how they fit, their spiritual gift of administration is an indispensable asset in their role as servant leaders.

--Claudia Johnson, CWLC leadership consultant