Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2012, 11:40 pm

Servant-leadership book written from prophet's, not profit's motive

Comment on this story

By Leon Lagerstam,

Dan Ebener
DAVENPORT -- A prophet's motive, not a profit one, inspires a local author to keep writing about servant leadership.

Dan Ebener, a St. Ambrose University professor and Davenport Diocese stewardship and parish planning director, recently published a book, ''Blessings for Leaders: Leadership Wisdom from the Beatitudes."

Each chapter of the book begins with one of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5: 1-3, and compares it to a servant-leadership characteristic.

Servant leadership is defined in an earlier book written by Dr. Ebener as "a process of influencing others to confront reality and move toward a shared vision, this approach places the interests of the people and the common good of the organization ahead of the personal interests of the leader.''

It's based on several Biblical passages, such as Mark 10:43-45, which reads: ''But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Another example is the John 13:12-15 story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet and saying ''If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.''

The idea to use the Beatitudes to illustrate servant-leadership points came to Dr. Ebener as he prepared opening reflections for a church-leadership seminar he gave at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids.

Those reflections led to a 4 1/2 hour presentation ''because everything I wanted to say about leadership was found in the Beatitudes,'' he said.

Dr. Ebener said he spent 11 months writing the book and 17 weeks rereading and making revisions. It was published by Liturgical Press and released Oct. 30. It was named as the best new book on religion and spirituality that week by an ''Any New Books'' organization.

For information about the book, or to order a copy, visit More information about servant leadership can be found at

Dr. Ebener said he was motivated to write the book because ''I think our world desperately needs new leaders and new models of leadership, be it in business, politics, or in our churches.

''The whole notion of a leader who sits on a pedestal and commands from on high contrasts dramatically to the idea of servant leadership.

''Jesus provides some amazing insight into today's leadership challenges, based on the wisdom of the ages you can find in the Beatitudes, and based on Proverbs, Psalms and Hebrew prophets,'' he said.

His book features stories of local people, such as Clyde Mayfield and Julie Martens, co-owners of Greatest Grains on Earth, in Davenport, which has a dine-in deli, bakery, and large variety of natural product groceries, fresh commercial and organic produce, bulk herbs, grains, trail mixes, and baking needs, a variety of body care lines, and specialty gift items.

''This local grocery store and deli has become a meeting place for neighbors, students and community leaders who gather for a healthy dose of food and the company of strangers who become friends at this unique business,'' Dr. Ebener wrote.

He tied Mr. Mayfield and Ms. Martens to the ''Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy'' Beatitude, when referring to their business mission. Works of mercy such as ones they practice at Greatest Grains ''give us insight on how leadership should be based on mission,'' Dr. Ebener said.

His book provided a ''perfect guide for where we want to go as an organization,'' said Marty Kurtz, founder and president of The Planning Center, a financial planning firm in Moline.

''In this day and age when people are making so many decisions about their future, we need to help them garner the wisdom to make those decision, and that's what this book is all about,'' he said.

''I read the book early on and liked it,'' Mr. Kurtz said. ''To have someone writing about servant leadership is unique in today's environment, but is so necessary. It brings out the fact that it's not always the most dramatic, charismatic person that makes a great leader, and how a person who takes a broader perspective of the Beatitudes can really impact lives.''

"This is exactly the type of book that I highly recommend,'' wrote Bishop Martin Amos in an endorsement for the book. ''It provides insights into the Gospel, inspiring stories, practical advice and specific examples of how to apply the Beatitudes to leadership.

"In 'Blessings for Leaders,' Dan Ebener brings over 40 years of leadership and management experience and draws from the Beatitudes as a source of wisdom for leaders in any type of profession or business," the bishop wrote.

"As Dan points out, the Beatitudes of Jesus are indeed blessings for leaders. They provide incredible insight into Christian life and leadership."

Dr, Ebener feels so passionate about the servant-leadership model, he plans to continue to write and discuss it with anyone wanting to learn more about it.

''I'm not doing it for any profit motive,'' he said. ''It's my passion.''

A passion familiar to prophets of old.