Four Qualities of a Servant Leader

Do you know that serving can be self-serving?  I can open the door for you, not because I want to help you, but because I want to look good! Serving can be done for all the wrong reasons, even in a COVID-19 world. It can be the ultimate “look at me!” opportunity. Today’s blog is a repost I wrote a few years back, but I think it is needed for today. Here are four qualities we all need to be servant leaders.


1. A servant leader focuses on others.

I guess that’s obvious, but as leaders, there is a tendency for us to focus on ourselves. What we are doing. Our goals. Our dreams. However, Jesus commands us not just to serve others, but to be a servant with others.  He said, “If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest. The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life…” Matthew 20:16-28 (NEV)

We are not called to simply serve,
we are called to be servants.

Years ago, the Salvation Army, held an International Convention in the States. The founder, General William Booth, was to speak, but because of an illness, he could not be there. He promised that he would send a telegram with a vision for the next decade of where the Salvation Army was to go. They were all excited. The Convention Center was packed out with Salvation Army people, waiting in anticipation. They got the telegram. The man who was to read the message that was to be the vision for the next decade for the Salvation Army got up. He opened the telegram, kind of frowned. There was only one word on the telegram – “Others.

2. A servant leader leads by example.

A servant leader would never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. In fact, they are willing to do along with them. Whether it’s clean up or follow up, a servant leader is ready to pitch in. No prima donna’s here! Remember, a servant leader is a servant. For reals! Whenever I think I’m the exception, something has happened in my heart.  Servanthood, not a role or behavior, it’s who we are!

3. A servant leader is willing to adapt.

Some think leadership is all about getting others to change to their way of thinking. However, servant leaders meet people where they are. They know the importance of adapting their leadership style. Some may need a more direct, hands-on approach, while others simply need a word of encouragement.

More than that, servant leaders learn and are willing to change their minds. They are never stubborn but teachable. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had it all figured out. It wasn’t until I slowed down and listened to another perspective that I saw the bigger picture. Often it didn’t change the overall direction, but it allowed me to make adjustments that resulted in better leadership. 

4. A servant leader makes hard decisions.

Being a servant leader doesn’t mean you don’t’ have to make a difficult decision or that you’ll never upset people. What it does mean is that you’re committed to doing what is best for the whole team. Servant leaders are willing to protect the group. There have been times in my ministry when a new person showed up from another church. I tried to be diligent in contacting the former pastor to find out what was going on. Sometimes they were running away from an issue, and so I asked the new person to go and make things right (in a loving, servant-like way). A servant leader are willing to make those decisions for the sake of the whole.


We are called to serve, not to be served. We are called to be servants. How can be a servant to those around us? In your family? In our church? In your community? 

Servanthood starts with the heart, not with behavior. Who is God asking you to serve today? 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. William Harold Vermillion says:

    amen. Nice distinction and explanation with illustration and clear chart. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gordon Penfold says:

    Thanks, Randy. As usual, you are spot on target. Thanks for your servant leadership!

    Liked by 1 person

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