Servant leadership is not a leadership style; it is a leadership philosophy, and the Bible has a lot to say about this philosophy.
Mark 10:42-45 says:
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. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Philippians 2:3-5 defines servant leadership this way:
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 your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
In John 13:1-17 we see an example of how Jesus served those closest to him and showed them the value of servanthood. Verses 12-17 of that passage says:
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 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.
With this in mind, think about what servant leadership actually looks like.
- A servant leader values others. She knows that every leader has intrinsic value outside of the work she does. The servant leader understands and embraces the unique qualities of each member of the team.
- A servant leader develops others by focusing on the growth and welfare of those following.
- A servant leader takes responsibility for herself, her attitude and her work. She is willing to do the hard stuff and works right alongside the team, because the only way servant leaders succeed is if their team succeeds.
Servant leadership doesn’t require perfection, it just requires faithfulness. Servant leadership isn’t about what you do – it’s about how you think. Jesus was the perfect example of a servant leader. Servant leaders lead with Jesus as their example and with others in mind. Let’s focus on leading like that!
Leadership Development Manager (MOPS International) and Mentor
Listen to more about servant leadership in Episode 65 of Connections: The Podcast