Ways of Servant Leadership (Five Essentials for Leading Well)

Published on
November 6, 2023


The concept of servant leadership is often attributed to Jesus Christ (humble and selfless in his approach to teaching and leading). Servant leadership focuses on serving others and placing the needs of those we lead ahead of our own.

It is a powerful tool that can be employed to transform communities and bring about lasting positive change.

It emphasizes empathy, listening, awareness, persuasion, and foresight as essential qualities for developing relationships with those we serve.

Together, we’ll consider some well-known Christian leaders who have exemplified these qualities and explore how we can use their examples to become better servant leaders in our own lives.


This trait is at the very core of servant leadership. It is the ability to [empathize] with those we serve.

Mother Teresa was a leader who focused on understanding and meeting the needs of the people she served in India. She believed she could alleviate some of their anguish by caring for those suffering from poverty and injustice.

Her selfless acts were an example to us all of what it truly means to love our neighbor as ourselves.

She exemplified another Catholic saint (St. Teresa of Avila) who said,

Christ has no body but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours” serves as an excellent reminder that having empathy and being open-minded is one way we can serve others selflessly like Christ did.

Empathy requires us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes before making decisions or taking action (by doing so, we can truly understand what they are going through and do what is best for them).


Another important quality for a successful servant leader is listening actively to others without judgment or prejudice.

It is about understanding the experiences and feelings of others (allowing us to be able to empathize with their struggles and hardships).

Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent Christian civil rights activist in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

He embodied this quality when he led protests against racial segregation and practices such as Jim Crow laws which discriminated against African Americans.

He listened intently to his followers as they shared their stories about injustice. By doing so, he could speak out on their behalf with conviction and compassion.

Consider how this quote from South African leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu (an instrumental figure in the reconciliation of South Africa after the horrors of apartheid):

If you want peace then listen! Listen so deeply that you hear not only the words but also the feeling behind them” - suggesting that we take time out from mundane conversations or heated debates to really listen thoughtfully in order to make real change happen through mutual understanding rather than just going through the motions without real care or consideration for our fellowman…

Listening well creates an open dialogue between leader and follower, building trust over time and encouraging collaboration toward common goals.


Servant leaders must also be aware of their surroundings (both physical environments and political climates) to help them anticipate potential problems or conflicts before they arise.

Mahatma Gandhi was a great example of a leader who possessed this attribute when he fought for India’s independence from British rule through non-violent means during the early 20th century.

His awareness allowed him to recognize the most pressing issues among Indians living under oppressive taxation policies and social injustices, such as caste systems that limited freedom of movement among many citizens.

This knowledge helped shape his strategy for peacefully achieving independence from British rule rather than through war or revolution.

As Christians, we are called to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16), a calling to be aware of the world around us and the needs of those we serve.

Awareness requires us to stay informed about current events (locally within our community and globally). Then we can identify situations that need attention or intervention before they spiral out of control.


Servant leaders must also possess excellent persuasion skills to gain support for their initiatives or goals effectively.

William Wilberforce was a devout Christian who used his leadership position in Britain’s House of Commons during the late 1700s through the mid-1800s to advocate passionately against slavery across British colonies worldwide. He was vehemently opposed and against popular opinion at that time.

His ability to persuade others using facts backed up by evidence eventually helped lead successful campaigns for abolishing slavery throughout much of Europe by 1834 (allowing millions of people worldwide to gain freedom from bondage forever).

Persuasion requires us to present our ideas clearly while appealing convincingly enough to engage both hearts and minds alike so that people are willing to follow your direction toward positive change despite any risks involved along the way.


Finally, foresight entails having a vision for what lies ahead beyond immediate circumstances or short-term gains.

It involves looking further down the road at long-term objectives or big-picture plans, which may be harder convince people about initially but will benefit everyone ultimately if achieved successfully over time.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one such leader. His foresight enabled him to develop plans during World War II aimed at helping Germany recover after its defeat (even though it meant facing personal risk due to his opposition to Hitler's regime).

Foresight encourages us to think outside present boundaries while asking ‘what if?’ questions -allowing us to consider possibilities not yet explored yet potentially fruitful.


Despite being separated by hundreds of years and vast geography, all five leaders discussed here shared similar traits - empathy, listening, awareness, persuasion, and foresight.

Each was a powerful example for servant leaders today.

By emulating these attributes within our lives, we can become more effective servant leaders within the communities where we serve & live.

Call To Action

We can all learn something from these inspiring figures by employing their same strategies within our communities (no matter how big or small) so that we may bring about lasting positive change rooted in compassionate love.

Ponder each individual mentioned here and ask yourself, “How might I apply these qualities in my life, work, and leadership?”

Consider specific steps to increase these characteristics within yourself & start taking action now.

What are your action steps? I’d love to connect with you and hear about your commitment.

Connect with me over at LinkedIn.

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