A few miles below the city of Manaus in the Amazon jungle the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes come together to form the Amazon river. Except they don’t come together, at least not right away.
For a few miles, the two rivers run next two each other, but in the same channel. One is dark, almost black, and the other is a light sandy color. They remind me of how faith and work are for many people. They are next to each other, but still separate and distinct.
The story begins in Central Illinois, where Mark grew up. He started habits of Bible study and prayer while he was still in his teens. He still follows those habits.
He also went to work in the printing company where his father was a supervisor. Mark’s father was a living example of how to lead by serving others. He also demonstrated to Mark how high standards and accountability for results can go hand-in-hand with building people up. That became Mark’s leadership model.
He used that model throughout his career in major printing companies. Serving the people who worked “for” him while holding them accountable for performance was a recipe for success. Mark created teams that delivered top results and high morale from the level of a customer service team to a position where ten general managers were his direct reports.
Through all this time, Bible study and prayer were a key part of Mark’s life. Leading people by serving them was the way he chose to lead. But they were like the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes. They were running side-by-side. That would change in 2003.
That was the year that Mark took over from another leader who had created “an extremely caustic environment and culture.” It was going to be a challenge to change that and turn things around. The challenge was a catalyst for growth.
Mark began to work with the Blanchard Companies. Chris Edmonds became his coach and helped him understand the implications and importance of culture. He began to see how his scriptural study and leadership style came together. Here’s how Mark describes it.
“What I learned from Blanchard and Chris was how you need to be intentional about building a culture and changing culture in an organization. And so I married the two, the servant leadership with that understanding of culture, and really put that into practice.”
Mark worked to integrate the principles of building culture with his faith and his own leadership style. Around 2005 he started using the term “servant leadership” for what he was doing. He began thinking about Jesus as the ultimate leadership role model.
That’s an important connection. Most of the people who interpret Jesus’ life are preachers and teachers. Naturally, they see Jesus through the lens of preaching or teaching. Mark began to see Jesus through the lens of leadership. When he did that his lifetime of learning from the scriptures and his business experience came together.
Mark began thinking that the combination of servant leadership and building a healthy culture and using Jesus as the ultimate leadership role model was exciting and something worth sharing. In 2010, two friends asked him to put on a series he called Leadership Roundtable, that would introduce people to faith based servant leadership as Mark had lived it.
By 2014, Mark had led several Leadership Roundtable programs. Each one did a better job of helping participants “step into” servant leadership in their own lives. Several people encouraged Mark to write a book that would extend the reach of his way of teaching faith-based servant leadership to even more people.
Mark finished the first draft by early 2015. Then he decided that he could use some help making the book as good as he wanted it to be. We started working together in mid-2015.
My role was to help Mark take what was already an excellent manuscript and make it better. We changed the organization slightly, worked on the language, and inserted stories and examples that put more of Mark into the book.
Leading Jesus’ Way: Becoming the Servant Leader God Created You to Be is the result of two years of writing. More importantly it’s about how a lifetime of faith and work and ideas can come together.