Christian Counseling: Servant Leadership

Living Life in the Service of Others

jesus christ washing feet
After progressing through love and forgiveness, mercy and compassion, and courage and responsibility, are we ready to embrace the servant leadership for which Jesus Christ stood?

What is Servant Leadership?
Of all of Christ's remarkable actions and teachings, perhaps none is more relevant to Christian men than that of servant leadership. In contrast to those who seek to lead for power, prestige, or pride, Jesus Christ was a different sort of leader, a humble man motivated by love, compassion, and mercy for those around him.

In its most basic form, servant leadership is a matter of stewardship -- that is, those who lead are the caretakers of their group's resources, of whatever kind. They lead by serving their group wisely and selflessly, doing their utmost to skillfully carry out the decisions that serve the best interests of the group. Servant leaders place great emphasis on trust, collaboration, empathy, and an ethical understanding of the power they wield.

Was Jesus Really a Servant Leader?
There are numerous examples of Christ's servant leadership to be found in the New Testament. Take, for example, the following passage from the tenth chapter of the Book of Mark:

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.

(43-45, NIV)

These words, among the last Jesus spoke to the Disciples, hold the very essence of servant leadership. The greatest leader is he who serves his people, even to the point of giving his own life for their benefit, as Jesus did when he was crucified for the sins of mankind.

Jesus showed servant leadership in a practical sense, as well, by washing the feet of his Disciples at the last supper.

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. I tell you the truth, 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.

(John 13:14-17, NIV)

Servant leaders understand that, ultimately, we must all serve each other, and this is part of their role, as well -- to act as teachers and facilitators for members of their group or organization. Leaders of this kind have the ability to inspire an aspect of humble servitude in those with whom they work and live, simply through their selfless actions for the good of the whole.

Servant Leaders -- of One Body
Perhaps the best biblical example of servant leadership can be found in the 12th chapter of First Corinthians, in the metaphor of the body. Just as the body would not be the same body without all its parts, servant leaders understand that the group would not be the same group without all its members.

In this sense, we can think of a servant leader as the body's head -- the seat of wisdom and direction, to be sure, but even the head is useless without the body to which it is attached, without the arms and hands and legs which move it and do its work.

Servant leadership requires love, compassion, acceptance of responsibility, and, above all, wisdom and selflessness. These are not easy traits to cultivate - in many ways, servant leadership is the apex of Christian manhood. Look to your brothers who are on a similar path, to the inspiration of Christ, and allow the strength of togetherness to carry you to the highest forms of help and service one man can give another.

Written by: Bob Robertson