Have you noticed that our generation is fascinated with taking “selfies?” On any given day, your social media feed will include dozens of these self-portraits. Some are personal pictures, and others are group photos. Perhaps part of the reason for an overload of selfies is due to the ease of posting a picture to Instagram or Facebook from your phone with a few swipes and clicks. But I suspect there is another, less innocent, reason for this cultural shift.

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We are fascinated with ourselves

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not against selfies, my social media profiles include a healthy dose of them. I have selfies with my wife, my children and their spouses, grandchildren, as well as friends and leaders I help train all over the world. Selfies are a good thing, but you would probably agree that this selfie-mania has gone overboard.

Are There Selfie Leaders?

I got this idea from a friend of mine who was speaking to leaders, comparing the selfie stick to the shepherd’s staff – two “sticks” with very different uses and results. Selfie leadership is focused on self. The shepherd’s staff is a tool to lead and serve. The selfie stick is the tool of the narcissistic leader, while the shepherd’s staff belongs to the servant leader. Here are three characteristics of selfie leaders, contrasted with aspects of the character of servant leaders.

  • Selfie leadership is pointed at the leader – It’s all about “me.” It is common to see these leaders talk about “my company,” “my people,” or “my organization.”

  • Selfie leaders use people. A true selfie is about me, right? The other people in the frame are just there “with me.” In selfie leadership, people are pawns, instruments to achieve the leader’s vision.

  • Selfie leadership is short-term focused. If it’s all about the bottom line (whether it is money, new donors, or warm pews), then short term results are enough.

But there is a better way to lead. Here is what Servant Leadership looks like:

  • Servant leaders are pointed at the other people. Servant leadership is about “us.” Leaders focus on empowering and serving others, whether it is their team members, customers, parishioners, etc.

  • Servant leaders empower people. Servant leadership invests in and empowers others. Like a true group picture, everybody is in the frame. To a servant leader, each person has value and deserves the best opportunity to succeed.

  • Servant leaders are long-term focused. Some consider leadership to be about either achieving the goals (task) or building relationships (people). Servant leaders understand you can actually achieve both at the same time.

I don’t think we should stop sharing our selfies with the world just yet (especially alongside our loved ones), but let’s not lead with a selfie stick in our hands. Instead, let’s use the shepherd’s staff and lead through service, focused on others and building the Kingdom of God.

What actions can you take to exchange your selfie stick for a shepherd’s staff?