Leadership is an important topic in ministry today. How should a ministry leader lead his or her people? John Maxwell says that “everything rises and falls on leadership”. I have been in ministry for about 8 years and I have found this statement to be true. I have also found that servant leadership can be one of the catapults for vibrancy in the local church.
When I was 22, I took a job in local government in West Tennessee. My boss at the time was a very difficult boss. In fact the entire office was scared of her. She hardly interacted with the staff, did not take any feedback into consideration in decision making and she was a micro manger. I remember working under her leadership and thinking to myself one simple thought, “If I ever get to become a boss someday, I am going to be the opposite of her”. I thought that there is no way that I would ever lead like her. Well fast forward about 6 months later and I got a promotion. Instantly I was in charge of numerous employees who all looked to me for leadership. I was thrust into leadership very young and I was clueless on how to lead.
When I accepted the position, I did not know how to be a leader. I asked myself the obvious questions. What is a great leader? What qualities does a great leader have? Who are some other leaders that I can model my own leadership after? After struggling with this for years, I ran across this amazing concept called “servant leadership”. I had never heard this term before. However the more I read about it, the more I fell in love with it. The more I fell in love with it, the more I wanted to study it. The more I studied it, the more I wanted to put it into practice. Currently today I live by this style of leadership. Every day I strive to be a great servant leader.
I have come to find that this style of leadership is extremely effective in me and some others as well. Many important and productive leaders practiced this model including Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, and Chick Fil A founder Truett Cathy. Even current St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Mathany uses servant leadership while coaching. However servant leaders are very rare to find. They are not as common as self-seeking leaders. Most leaders today practice a different philosophy called self-seeking leadership.
We live in a world today of self-seeking leaders. Self-seeking leaders are more concerned about their personal gain and development and less concerned about impacting the lives of others. They are more concerned about obtaining power verses empowering others. They are more concerned about how much they can make verses how much of a difference they can make. This philosophy is called self-seeking leadership.
I found a great definition of servant leadership from the website www.study.com. The definition is much different than self-seeking leadership. The definition is this, “A servant leader leads by serving others. In other words, servant leaders place the interests and needs of their followers ahead of their own self-interests and needs. Generally, they value the development of their followers, building their communities, acting authentically, and sharing power.”
The best example of a servant leader is from the greatest leader that ever walked the earth. His name is Jesus Christ. I could not even begin to describe Him with words. His attributes far out due anyone that has ever walked the earth! He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords and our Savior! He was also an amazing servant leader! Jesus practiced and preached this concept of servant leadership. Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” A great example of this is when Jesus washed the disciples feet at the last supper. Jesus was and is naturally a servant leader. Taking His model of leadership, I have learned that this is the best style of leadership today. When determining how I would lead personally, I thought why not follow the example of the greatest leader ever. I know for me when I applied this style of leadership, it changed my ministry that helped lead to vibrancy in the local church.
Now to the main reason for writing this piece and that is this. What are the qualities of servant leadership? I have researched and identified 12 qualities of a servant leader through the life of Jesus in the Gospels and the Old & New Testament Scriptures.
A servant leader is:
- Someone who is humble (Philippians 2:7) – They never consider themselves better than anyone.
- Someone who serves others and not themselves (Mark 10:43) – They are always looking for ways to serve others.
- Someone who is a great listener (Mark 10:46-50) – They take the time to listen to the needs and concerns of those that they serve with.
- Someone who is an encourager (1st Thessalonians 5:11) – They constantly look for ways to encourage others.
- Someone who leads by supporting and not dictating (Philippians 2:4) – They look for ways to support those that they serve with.
- Someone who uses the power of persuasion and not sere authority (1st Corinthians 2:4) – They lead by example and persuasion and not by demanding their way.
- Someone who is generous (1st Timothy 6:18-19) – They consider constantly how to help other and are generous with all that they own.
- Someone who is relational (Galatians 3:28) – They develop personal relationships with those that they serve with.
- Someone who thinks “you” and not “me” (Luke 23:34) – They constantly look for ways to push others ahead of them.
- Someone who is committed to helping others grow and mature (Colossians 2:6-7) – They develop others through helping them grow and mature.
- Someone who empowers (Ephesians 4:11-13) – They lead by empowering and equipping others.
- Someone who lives with vision (Proverbs 29:18) – They live with vision!
Sometime back, I really studied these qualities and tried to begin applying them to my own life. Needless to say when I was promoted at the age of 22, I tried to lead by power and authority. This was a total failure in more ways than I care to say. When I became a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ and eventually a pastor, I learned that the best style of leadership is the servant leadership style. I love the quote by John Maxwell that says this, “”True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.” I think this simple quote sums up servant leadership.
I believe that the servant leader model should be used by leaders hoping to bring or to continue in helping bring vibrancy to the local church and her ministries. I have personally seen results from using this style. When you start practicing this style, then servanthood becomes a staple for those that you are serving with. Serving our congregation and our communities is what we are called to do by Jesus. When we as leaders start serving then our people in our congregation begin to serve! Serving churches typically helps lead to a vibrant church.
I would encourage you to apply these qualities into your leading. Why not learn from the greatest leader ever and follow His example. Jesus lived this style of leadership and left us an incredible example to follow. May you live with this style in mind!
– By Kevin McDonald