3 Characteristics of Servant Leadership

Kathy and I are on an eight-day motorcycle journey through Tuscany, Italy with a group of riders. Here’s how the servant heart of one of our fellow riders convicted and inspired me.

A group of us were getting our motorcycles ready for the trip. We had to become acquainted with our rental bikes — figure out the starter and cut-off switch, directional indicators, luggage, locks, and riding position. Then came the job of attaching our GPS units to the bike and finding power for the device.

Head Down and Focused

A few came unprepared for this GPS thing. They had the wrong handlebar attachment and incorrect power plug for the BMW bikes they had rented. Faced with this problem, people became frustrated and looked for help. There was pressure to get it all done and get on the road. There were nine bikes in all, and no one wanted to be the person who held up the group.

I was focused on my bike. Knowing I was going to be riding a BMW motorcycle in Italy, I visited BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta. I met with Mason Coleman, the parts specialist. He is an impressive young man and has a heart for service. I told him the bike model I had rented and what I wanted to attach. Within minutes, I had everything I needed to do the job. It was seamless.

Because of this preparation, I was up and running in no time. Now it did take a while for Kathy and me to load our stuff onto the bike, but we figured it all out. We stayed busy and focused on our task, our bike, and our problems. Then I looked up and saw a bit of chaos.

Selfishness vs. Helpfulness

Some of the people around me were having trouble, and you could feel the stress. But I noticed this man, Frank, who was jumping from bike to bike helping people. It turned out he was one of our fellow riders. He was ignoring his bike preparation so he could assist everyone around him. I was struck by his spirit of service. In the midst of this preparatory group stress, he remained calm and reassuring. Right then and there, I realized my selfishness and began to help.

Because of his service, he was the last person ready for our journey. His bike was never fully prepared, but it didn’t seem to worry him. He loaded his stuff, ignored his own GPS debacle, jumped on, and said, “Let’s go!” He set the mood for the whole ride. There was no stress knowing he was with us.

Later in the ride, Kathy and I were going through a toll both on the AutoStrada. I was following Frank. I saw he was frustrated because he couldn’t get the toll machine to take his credit card. Suddenly the gate opened, but he didn’t see it as he was so focused on the machine. I yelled, “Go. The gate is open.” He drove off, and now I was experiencing the same frustration.

Frank rode to the other side of the toll gate, parked his bike, and came back to help me and the other riders behind me. I looked up, and he was standing next to me. He said, “I’ll take care of this. You just drive on to meet up with the others.”

As I rode off, I said to myself, “Who is this man? What can I learn from him?” After thinking about it, here is what I came up with.

1. Eyes of a servant

While I was heads-down doing my thing, Frank was heads-up, searching the room for people in need of help. I am often astounded at waiters in restaurants who are seemingly insensitive to their guests. They will walk through the dining room focused on where they are going and the task they were asked to do. Their eyes are not scanning the room looking for a person in need. Frank has the eyes of a servant.

2. Helping others as a reflex

I saw people who were struggling and needed help, but I had my own problems. But so did Frank. His priority was to help others first, then help himself. The instructions given to all of us while we are flying are for Frank, not me. “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, the oxygen masks will drop. Be sure to put yours on first before helping the person next to you.” You must remind people like Frank to take care of themselves first in certain situations.

3. Trustworthy

There was a comfort in knowing Frank was in the group. He is like insurance. I’m covered, and he’ll be there when I need him. His very presence de-stressed any trip or situation. Kathy and I loved having him around…and so did everyone else. You can trust Frank to be there when you need him.

One last story…

We went on what is called a “loop ride” out of Assisi. On the way back, we passed a restaurant in the middle of the countryside. They were barbecuing, and the smoke and aroma covered the road. We immediately turned around and had a delicious meal.

When we left, I delayed a bit for a restroom stop. The rest of the guys went to the parking lot. As I was exiting the restaurant, what do I see? To my surprise, Frank is escorting a woman in her eighties to the front door of the hotel! He has the eyes and reflexes of a servant. I am grateful God put him on our motorcycle trip.