A true servant leader understands the importance of serving others. It separates the great leaders from the good leaders. It is a secret to leadership which is crucial for a person to know to become a great leader. Jesus demonstrated this secret in his time on earth during His public ministry. It is amazing to think that Jesus who is God came to serve. For those who wanted to see, He gave them sight. For the lame, He made them walk. The Creator served His creation. He even served bread to those who hungered (Jones, Laurie, 1995).
Mark Sanborn calls this the “Fred Factor.” In his book on leadership, Sanborn tells the story of his mailman Fred who added value to his job by doing little things which improved the quality of his service. According to Sanborn, the “Fred Factor” is an awareness of the needs of others and seeing opportunities to serve others. It is a desire to do tasks that add value to one’s work. A servant has the right attitude which is a desire to serve others out of seen opportunities rather than obligations to do a task. A servant not only sees the needs of others but she acts upon them (Sanborn, Mark, 2002/2005).
John C. Maxwell calls this concept the Law of Addition. Maxwell points out this law goes against human nature as people seek out power, prestige, and wealth. Leaders have either a negative or positive impact their followers. True leaders seek ways to make things better for their followers and improving their quality of life (Maxwell, John, 1998/2007).
A popular misconception among leaders is the showing of compassion as portraying weakness. Some leaders believe that there is no substitute for tough leadership which boarders on abuse of the followers. It is an evolutionary worldview that in leadership only the strong survive. However, it is important for a leader to possess compassion for his followers. Charles Surgeon was known to be an authoritative leader yet he never held it over his staff and congregation. His leadership was tempered by love. While he exhibited strong convictions and personal toughness, he was also known as a man with a compassionate heart that showed pastoral tenderness (Michael, Larry, 2003).
A servant leader believes that in meeting the needs of others, people will follow the leader. A servant leader is adept at seeing the needs of others and ministering unto them. It is through servanthood that this type of leader develops credibility among her followers. A leader needs to learn the skills of shepherding inherent in the servant leader. People seek out those leaders such as Spurgeon who were gifted in shepherding skills. It is the calling of pastors to be shepherds of the flock to which God calls them therefore pastors will be judged according to their ministry as shepherds no matter the size of the flock. When a pastor shows love for his flock, that pastor is showing the love of Christ. The best shepherds are the ones who model the character of Jesus in their ministry towards others (Towns, Elmer, 2007). By studying the life of Jesus, a leader may construct a model of servant leadership with principles to follow.
Jesus as the Model of Servant Leadership
In John 10:11, Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. Before Jesus is even born, He is described as being a shepherd. The model of the shepherd is crucial to understanding the character of Jesus’ servant ministry. A true shepherd is willing to suffer a great deal of abuse for the sake of his sheep. A good shepherd is willing to face great risks for the sake of his sheep while a hireling will flee danger and leave the sheep defenseless before the enemy. Psalms 23:1 points to Jesus as the Good Shepherd and as the Good Shepherd, Jesus sees the needs of His sheep then provides for their needs. A shepherd is tender in his care for his sheep. He seeks out lost sheep and takes responsibility for meeting the needs of each sheep in his flock. Finally, these characteristics lead to the shepherd developing rich relationships with members of the flock.
To become a servant leader as modeled by Jesus Christ, a leader must change the orientation from self to others. The leader must learn to make decisions based on the needs of others and not personal agendas. The servant leader is able to see the needs of the sheep in the flock and meet those needs. A servant leader has a tender heart which shows compassion. A servant leader is willing to accept the responsibility for the spiritual development of the flock. Finally, a servant leader is not afraid to develop strong, intimate relationships with followers. By following these principles, a leader will develop into the servant leader model by Jesus.
Towns, Elmer L. (2007). Biblical Models for Leadership. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Michael, Larry J. (2003). Spurgeon on Leadership: Insights for Christian Leaders from the Prince of Preachers. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
Maxwell, John C. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (Tenth Anniversary ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. (Original work published 1998)
Sanborn, Mark. (2005). The Fred Factor (2 ed.). Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press. (Original work published 2002)
Jones, Laurie Beth. (1995). Jesus, CEO. New York, NY: Hyperion Publishing.