Servant Leaders Waive Rank


It is great to talk about servant leadership, but it is better to witness it.

In February 1862, Union forces under command then Brigadier-General Ulysses S. Grant captured Fort Donelson. Grant relates that during the siege Union general William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union forces had been sent to Smithland to help move reinforcements and supplies to Grant. Although Sherman would eventually serve under Grant, he was the senior officer at the time.

Sherman's actions, as recounted by Grant, provide a picture of servant leadership long before the words became popular.

At that time he was my senior in rank and there was no authority of law to assign a junior to command a senior of the same grade. But every boat that came up with supplies or reinforcements brought a note of encouragement from Sherman, asking me to call upon him for any assistance he could render and saying that if he could be of service at the front I might send for him and he would waive rank.
— Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, p 213

Servant leaders understand rank. They recognize authority. But they are not slaves to rank and they refuse to be held captive by their authority.

Like Sherman they will gladly encourage others, offer assistance, and even waive rank in order to get the job done.

Jesus modeled this. He said, "The greatest among you will be your servant" (Matthew 23:11). Then he washed the disciples feet (John 13:1-20). His followers did the same. Barnabas took the lead in the early church, but then gave way to Paul. Why? Because it wasn't about Barnabas . . . it was about what best advanced the mission of Jesus!

You're a leader. You are the guy or gal who runs point. You have the position, you have the rank, you have the authority. Stewarding it well means that sometimes you surrender it to get the job done.

Servant leaders waive rank!