Servant Leadership: Principles
“Servant Leadership: Going the Second Mile”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1.1
- Exploring the Journey
In exploring the servant leadership journey, a principle is found in the admonition
of Jesus to “go the second mile” (Mt. 5:41). The servant leadership,
as presented here, builds on and goes beyond the definitions in the article
reporting what others are saying about leadership. Isn’t it often the
case that those of us in Christian leadership continually learn from our informed
contemporaries valid concepts and practices within our social and business arenas?
But servant leadership after the pattern of Christ goes “the second mile”
in the workplace, churchplace, and homeplace.
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles (Matthew
Jesus refers to the Roman practice of commandeering civilians to carry the
luggage of military personnel a prescribed distance, one Roman mile. That was
the duty of residents of a subjugated country. One person's impression of another,
like a lawsuit, evokes outrage. But the attitude of Jesus' disciples under such
imposition must not be spiteful or vengeful; instead, it should be helpful--willing
to go a second mile. That was a high standard for the disciples and a hard task
Scholars within the context of Christian ministry, businesses, or non-profit
organizations have often identified and espoused similar concepts and practices
of servant leadership. We can learn from these samples to encourage both the
understanding and practice of servant leadership.
- Paul A. Cedar--Strength in Servant Leadership
The servant leader (from pp. 27-30):
• examines the life of Jesus Christ
• serves as Jesus served
• leads as Jesus led
• gives what Jesus has given
• is in all empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Servant leadership is for everyone; for our different situations and needs,
it is the common Christian leadership style. It is both biblical and practical
for business, home, school, and the church (see pp. 17-27). Servant
leadership begins with the heart--with our attitude, with our motives (p.29;
see also Phil. 2:4-7). You can be a servant leader--whatever your leadership
role . . . the Lord is anxious to empower and encourage us. Remember, servant
leadership is not natural; it requires the supernatural--the very presence
and power of God (see pp. 161-162). Reflection:
Steven R. Covey--Principle-Centered
Principle-centered leaders are service-oriented. They see life as a
mission, not as a career. . . . In effect, every morning they “woke
up” and put on the harness of service, thinking of others. . . . Until
you can say “I am my master,” you cannot say “I am your
servant” (pp. 34, 55). Reflection:
Robert D. Dale--Pastoral Leadership
“Servanthood” is the primary biblical image of leadership
and the basic image of the person and work of Christ. As a leadership stance,
servants (pp. 25, 29, 34):
• lead out of relationship, not by coercion
• lead by support, not by control
• lead by developing others, not by doing all the ministry themselves
• guide people, not drive them
• lead from love, not domination
• seek growth, not position.
- Max DePree--Leadership Jazz
A jazz band is an expression of servant leadership--a public performance,
dependent on so many things--the environment, the volunteers playing in the
band, the need for everyone to perform as individuals and as a group, the
absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, the need of
the leader for the followers to play well. What a summary of an organization!
- Rick E. Ferguson--The Servant Principle
“The Servant Principle” is a dynamic call that challenges
us to return to Christian service, performing tasks for the Lord in all walks
of life--at home, in our communities, on the job, and most of all, in the
church. . . . Servanthood is more than a lifestyle. It is simply a life. The
life of a servant (p. 4).
- Leighton Ford--Transforming Leadership
Jesus knew the price of leadership--He was willing to give himself
(see Mark 10:45).
• Kingdom leadership is in contrast to worldly patterns.
• It is internally consistent with the nature of Christ’s community.
• It takes its ultimate model from the Son of Man.
- Robert K. Greenleaf--Servant Leadership
Those who choose to follow the servant leadership principle will freely
respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven
and trusted as servants (p. 10).
- James C. Hunter--The Servant
Leadership: The skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward
goals identified as being for the common good. . . . You manage things, you
lead people . . . Leadership boils down to a simple four-word description:
. . . Identify and meet needs (pp. 28, 90).
- Southwest Airlines--SkyMall Magazine
(--a motto in a flight magazine)
Service is the lifeblood of any organization. Everything flows from it
and is nourished by it. Customer service is not a department, it’s an
- Gene Wilkes--Jesus on Leadership
Those who lead in God’s kingdom lead from a kneeling position, dressed
like a servant, meeting the needs of those who follow them (p. 20; see
also John 13:16-17).
In another article, my understanding and definition of servant leadership will
be enlarged and applied to various ministry roles.
Practicing servant leadership in Christian ministry is selfgiving service
with others after the pattern of Christ through example and persuasion in
order to achieve extraordinary commitment and contributions toward mutually
shared kingdom goals (L. Elder).
I hope it will be obvious to you and appreciated how much I have drawn upon
these insights, as well as the pattern of Christ and the teaching of Sacred
Scripture. Since this is only a summary, the article leaves a healthy chunk
of work for you to pursue. Think about your present leadership roles and tasks
as you re-read the reported definitions of “servant leadership.”
How are they alike? How different? How well do you see yourself reflected in
the ten statements? If you select several elements that should go into your
understanding, how would it affect your practice of servant leadership?
Close this window
© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership