What Is Servant Leadership

What is servant leadership and how can I become a servant leader? The Redeemed takes a look at Biblical examples of servant leadership.
Servant leadership

Servant Leadership Definition

Servant leadership is a philosophy where a leader’s chief purpose is to serve his or her followers. Servant leadership demonstrates a set of behaviors and practices that place a primary emphasis on the well-being of those being served.  

It is often argued that servant leadership is not so much a ‘leadership style’ as it is an overall attitude; an attitude to serve those who are under your care. A servant leader serves others by investing in their development and well-being and enabling them to do their best.

Christian Servant Leadership

Varying slightly, Christian servant leadership is serving God through investing in others so that together a task may be accomplished for God’s glory. Christian servant leaders aim to please God first and are not solely moved by the need to please or serve people.  

Biblical Examples of Servant Leadership

While the concept of servant leadership is not fully defined in Jesus’ words or a single phrase, it is illustrated in His life and ministry. 

Jesus explained to His followers that their practice of leadership should not be self-seeking, self-serving, or power based as is often seen in worldly leaders. 

  • Mark 10:42-44

    Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

  • Matthew 20:25-28

    Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  • Philippians 2:3-4

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

In Luke 22, Jesus taught that the ones who rule should be like the ones who serve.  

  • Luke 22:24-26

    A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

In John 13, Jesus demonstrates servant leadership by washing His Disciples’ Feet.

  • John 13:15-17

    I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Characteristics of Servant Leaders

Noting the characteristics often seen in servant leaders will help each of us evaluate ways we can strive to better implement servant leadership in our own lives. Certainly not all of these qualities will be found to the same degree in every servant leader. A true servant leader will be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with those who are able to complement their abilities.  

  • Loving Attitude
    • Jesus’ life of service originated from His loving relationship with God. It is important to remember that the right attitude is a fundamental key to servant leadership.
  • Integrity
    • Proverbs 21:3
      To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
  • Humility
    • Colossians 3:12
      Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 
  • Empathy
    • Romans 12:15
      Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
  • Good Steward
    • 1 Peter 4:10
       Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 
  • Motivates others to accomplish tasks
  • Invests in development and well-being of others 
  • Serves God through investing in others 
  • Seeks first to understand then to be understood 
  • Creates an atmosphere where others are encouraged and empowered 
  • Encourages input and feedback 
  • Shares credit 
  • Makes decisions openly and in consultation with others 
  • Accountable to God  
  • Welcomes personal evaluations as a means to improve 
  • Willing to step aside for someone more qualified 

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