Servant Leadership

Lonnie Hilton
National Director & International Vice President

“And He sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, ‘If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.’” Mark 9:35

Servant leadership is not non-leadership. But for many the phrase “servant leadership” actually seems to mean an abandonment of leadership. On the contrary, servant leaders are the genuine leaders.


Jesus instructed His followers to walk away from the prevailing models of prideful leadership, in which dominance, coercion, titles, and public recognition were the goals. Instead, Jesus spoke of leaders who serve.

Servant leaders still do many of the things other leaders do: direct, organize, envision. But in servant leadership, the kingdom of God becomes the motivation and shapes the individual leadership style. 

When servant leadership is present in the local church, certain characteristics will be apparent.

  1. Servant leaders are secure, knowing God values them. Only when we accept our worth before God can we freely attend to the needs of others and empower them to their full potential. Jesus was at liberty to take the basin and towel and wash the disciples’ feet because He knew who He was. (John 13:3-5)
  2. Servant leaders find joy in encouraging and supporting staff and team members. They assist others in developing their gifts and publicly recognize the growth and contribution of others. As a result, the congregation functions as a body where every person is valued, not as an audience that feeds the leader’s ego but as valuable and fruitful members of Christ’s body.
  3. Servant leaders don’t need credit for their ideas or visions. It is said well in the old adage: “How much good could be accomplished if it mattered not who gets the credit.” Servant leaders glory in the growth of God’s kingdom, not their own.
  4. Servant leaders are high on relationship and low on control and coercion. People are motivated by genuine care and heart connection, rather than by fear and judgment.
  5. Servant leaders base their authority on character, not on the position they occupy. Moral authority arises from a person’s integrity and consistency before Christ and not from the position or title.

Genuine servant leaders give followers an attractive model that they want to emulate. In a word, let me say, “Leaders, serve on.”