Servant Leadership: E-Excellence

October 10, 2008

In these troubling times, with the housing market’s burst bubble to major corporations filing bankruptcy, to the political scene, I find myself hard-pressed to find a distinguished leader. As we discuss this aspect of SERVANT Leadership, we move from the S, which stood for Strategic, and move now to the E (Excellence).

So what is excellence really? I am quite sure if you were to ask any number of people, you would have any number of answers. I always like to have a baseline for my quest for knowledge, so when I consulted the all-knowing Wikipedia, I was struck by its definition of excellence:

  • Excellence is the state or quality of excelling. Particularly in the field of business and organizations, excellence is considered to be an important value, and a goal to be pursued.

Was that definition as ambiguous to you as it was to me when I read it? The state of excelling? So what does excelling mean? Let’s just work with the dictionary version which states, “To do or be better than; surpass.” So if we were looking for someone we would deem as possessing this attribute of excellence, what would some of the characteristics be?

  • Characteristics:
    • This is the person everyone looks to set the bar on performance as well as “acceptable behavior” or morality
    • Has a strong since of right and wrong, keeps the subject black and white.
    • When working on a project or mission, this individual will constantly look for ways to make it better or stand out.
    • Will be the motivator in the group, one who is always pushing to accomplish the task
    • Most likely will best identify with someone who is keenly strategic, would form a great pair.
    • May not be the leader, but would definitely be someone that most people in the office go to for advice not only professionally, but personally.

Looking at the characteristics above, would you be able to drop upon your past and be able to label someone as possessing this trait? I have the awesome privilege to be able to pull several files out of my memory’s filing cabinet, but why bring those when I can truly focus on the one who forever changed what this topic would mean? Of course, I am referring to the one and only Jesus Christ.

One of the passages that deals with the excellence of Christ is Philippians 2:6, “Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality.” Sometimes, it is hard to remember that Christ was fully human and fully divine. He strove to set a path before us on how to intimately commune with the Father, however, there were certain attributes of his character that were…. Well, just Jesus. Jesus’ excellence rested in his relationship with the Father, made evident by his words, and proclaimed by his passion which he lived daily. Several times throughout the Gospels, it is said or inferred that Christ naturally drew people to him. It was a quality he had, an excellence of everything that drew massive crowds to him. Sure, there were some there for the “magic show” they thought he would put on, but those who truly followed Christ followed him because he was holy or properly translated- set apart.

Excellence in leadership does not mean you are always the top performer, or your team always exceeds expectations, or anything along those lines. Excellence is more of an intrinsic value that plays out in your actions. Christ never asked his apostles to do something he could not do. Examples? Let’s start with tending to the flock, which was a direct command to Peter after Christ’s resurrection. I would daresay Christ had already done that. Tend to the poor and the lame… yep, he did that too. Commune with God daily in prayer…. Yeah, several examples of that. In essence, Christ had set the bar of excellence, not from a divinely appointed position, but from the human side. Through prayer, we can attain this quality as leaders.

The world will pervert this quality and say that excellence is having everyone look up to you because you just do the right thing. A Christian Leader knows the difference in worldly excellence and the excellence Christ has called us to. The world only focuses on the “what.” Christ takes us deeper and goes to the “why and the how.”

If this was you struggle with, here are some tips for working on it:

  • Try to think of ways you can set the bar for excellence.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I always try to do the best, or choose the path of least resistance?”
  • Write out a Top 5 plan with ways to increase self-awareness to the need for raising the bar. Include “how to’s” and the “Whys”
  • Identify at least three key characteristics Christ possessed that you would like to see made evident in your daily walk-set goals, measure results, and make plans to consistently improve.
  • WARNING: Be careful not to become holier than thou in the process. Communication is key in this particular principle; don’t be blinded by the assumption that everyone knows your motives. Be expressive and try to explain your thought process where possible and appropriate

22 All the people spoke well of him. They were amazed to hear the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Luke 4:22 (GW)



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About the Writer:


Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.


One comment

  1. […] to become resourceful, you have opened a whole new degree of knowledge and ability in the area of Strategic Leadership. A leader who already possesses the ability to think strategically is one who is normally at the […]

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