I never thought of myself as a leader.

You probably don’t most of the time either.

During high school, I certainly didn’t feel it either (and sometimes even still don’t).

It was the end of a short summer after my freshman year of high school and the beginning of a long journey of pain, hardship and perseverance.

During the months that followed, my father was bedridden in agonizing pain. I had never felt life’s pressures as I did during that time. As the oldest of five, I felt suddenly called upon to a whole new family role.

I was called on to serve in church in various ways, help my siblings in different areas and be an encouragement to my mother.

Our family persevered through those grueling months not on my back alone, but on the shoulders of each one of our family members. We served each other and with each other.

The biggest lesson I learned that year became the key to my future leadership philosophy. And that same key element is a large part of what the BJU Center for Leadership Development’s main purpose is. Their mission tagline is “Develop yourself, lead your peers and serve your community.”

The key to my leadership philosophy is summed up in this tagline, but is particularly focused on that last phrase, “serve your community.”

Servant leadership is the best example of reciprocal leadership because the leader and follower, while serving together, learn from one another. Each one pushes and challenges the other in diligence, humility, perseverance and faith.

I had the wonderful opportunity this past week to attend a leadership symposium at The Citadel in Charleston. From the many distinguished speakers who spoke on varying topics, I connected a few common themes concerning leadership.

One of the most prominent themes was that the best leadership in the world begins with service.

It starts with service to your employees, customers, coworkers, peers, family and community. It continues with service to your followers—guiding and directing the vision by serving on the front lines, so to speak.

If I may add some biblical application, we as Christian leaders are called to be servants of our God and of His people. We’ve all heard the phrase “you can talk the talk and/or walk the walk.” The phrase goes on to say, “but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” This doesn’t just apply to our walk in faith with God. It applies to our everyday service to others. Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t want to do yourself.

Just as I started learning back in high school with serving alongside my family in the ministry and just as the University develops us to be leaders in our career fields, we need to keep service as a top priority in our careers, family, community and life.

You may make it this far and reply, “but I don’t have any leadership positions or experience.”

But as a servant leader, it doesn’t matter if you have a society officer position, a council position or any official organizational leadership position. You can always be the first to serve. And that makes you a leader in service, right?

As we strive to build our faith, challenge our potential and follow Christ, we must be constantly focusing our attention on the ultimate Example of humble servant leadership—Christ Himself—and what He desires us to accomplish.

Let your service to others and for others begin today.