According to Cavett Robert, “fifteen percent of the reason [people] get a job, keep that job and move ahead in that job, is determined by [their] technical skill and knowledge regardless of their profession.” What about the other 85 percent? Robert quotes Stanford Research Institute, Harvard University, and the Carnegie Foundation as having proved that 85 percent of the reason people get a job, keep that job, and move ahead in that job has to do with [their] people skills and people knowledge.” (Zig Ziglar, Top Performance)

That's impressive. It underlines the importance of human relationships to the work force. If relationships are that important on the job, then they're crucial to the role of servant leaders. Leadership is about influencing people through relationships.

Return with me to the first century. A Jewish traveler from Tarsus came to the northern Greek city of Thessalonike (today Salonika). He spoke courageously and convincingly of his conversion to Jesus Christ. People responded to his invitation, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ---merchants, businessmen, career women, the artistic and laborers, philosophers and teachers. A church was born. About two months later the traveler moved on to Corinth where he wrote a letter back to the believing community, reminiscing about his time there. The letter is First Thessalonians written by Paul the Apostle.

The letter is warm, personal, and inviting, describing the manner Paul lived and worked among the Thessalonians. It's a classic model for building and developing relationships for leaders who lead by serving.

Relationships are INTENTIONAL.

Meaningful relationships don't just happen. Paul initiated his visit to Thessalonica (2:1); he dared to take the initiative to speak the Gospel above much opposition (2:2); he initiated treating the people as a “mother” (2:7) and as a “father” (2:11). It was his call.

Servant leaders don't wait for others to build relationships. They make it happen. They take the lead. . . suggesting coffee or lunch, leading in prayer, making the visit, saying, “Let’s talk some more.” When it comes to relationships, leaders seize the opportunity.

Relationships are NEED BASED.

Relationships reveal people's needs. Servant leaders are sensitive; aware of personal needs when building relationships. Paul knew the Thessalonians needed, at times, a gentle, caring leader, who would treat them like a nursing mother (2:7). Nursing mothers think nothing of their own needs; it’s about the infant. At other times, the community needed a leader who wouldn’t burden them financially (2:9). They couldn’t afford to pay Paul a salary. No problem. Paul supported himself. And verse 11 says “. . .we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging” them on.

THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU LEAD. Do you know what life is like for them? Their struggles? Heartaches? Decisions they have to make? Issues they face? Burdens they carry from the past? Leaders are at their best when their spiritual antennae are up, attuned to others. They listen carefully, read between the lines, ask the right questions. They’ve learned how to read facial expressions. They’re sensitive, knowing how to weave wisdom, grace, biblical insight, and understanding into the relationship. Pity the leader who checks people off like agenda items; who gives in to the major enemy of SELF PREOCCUPATION.