Servant leadership

Servant leadership

Now Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. – Deuteronomy 34:9 

Joshua 1:1-10

 1 After the death of Moses, the LORD’s servant, the LORD, spoke to Joshua, son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said,

 2 Moses, my servant, is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.

 3 I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you.

 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.

 6 Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.

 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

 9 This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

 10 Joshua then commanded . . ..

Moses worked himself out of a job, preparing Joshua to become the next leader of Israel.

“Most leaders are trying to figure out the right strategy. The best leaders are obsessed with empowering the right people” (Craig Groeschel).

“There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of leadership. Leaders can succeed with all types of personalities, education, and theories. One popular leadership style is servant leadership . . .. Servant leadership is a classic concept, but the term was coined in 1970 when Robert K. Greenleaf published his essay, “The Servant as Leader.” Greenleaf maintained, “The servant leader is servant first” ( education/what-is-servant-leadership/).

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve.  A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. Greenleaf suggested that a Servant Leader focuses on the needs of others and asks: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

Unlike authoritarian leaders, servant leaders do not depend on accumulating or exercising power. Instead, the servant leader:

  • Considers the needs of others first. Servant leaders focus on satisfying the highest-priority needs of others. Servant leaders feel a strong sense of caring and responsibility for those they serve.
  • Commits to helping others develop expertise and improve performance. Servant leaders prioritize the personal development of others, ensuring they build their biblical knowledge and exercise their gifts.

Moses was a superb servant leader. He mentored Joshua, who succeeded him as the leader of Israel.


“No one ever mistook Jesus for anything but a leader, and yet He came to serve, right up to the time He performed the ultimate service by giving His life so that we might not have to die” (Stanley).

Father thank You for the example of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Encourage me to serve and think of others as more highly than myself.


The Lord Jesus Christ was the paragon of servant leadership. His life was focused on the needs of others, putting them first (Philippians 2:4). “The Son of Man is the perfect example of lowly service. He came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (MacDonald).

Matthew 20:28 The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

“Jesus presented Himself, the Son of Man, as the supreme example of a slave of others. He would even lay down His life in the service of others, not just to help them but in their place. As Messiah, Jesus had every right to expect service from others, but instead, He served others” (Constable).

Our goal as children of the King is to be like our King. His greatness is seen through his attitude and actions of service to others. He came into this world to be the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). The service of each child of the King is unique and different. However, the motivation is the same, putting others first, serving, not being served.

“The whole purpose of the Incarnation can be summed up in two words – serve and give. It is amazing to think that the exalted Lord humbled Himself to the manger and to the cross. His greatness was manifested in the depth of His humiliation. And so it must be for us” (MacDonald).

On December 12, 1667, the Council of Moscow deposed the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon. He was anything but a servant leader. He was noted as a “man of great ability and sincerity but of autocratic temper.”  The word autocratic is derived from the Greek terms autosself and kratosrule. Autocratic leaders drive people under their authority.

Autocratic leaders are considered authoritarian. Why? They make decisions with little or no input from others. Autocratic leaders generally do not elicit opinions or expertise from the people under their authority. Instead, they make all the decisions for whichever entity they rule over. The three pillars of autocratic leadership are discipline, preparation, and victory.

However, in the kingdom of God, this model is turned upside down. Long before Greenleaf, the Lord Jesus Christ offered a different paradigm for leadership: servant leadership. The whole idea was innovative and radical, if not revolutionary. He proposed a whole new arrangement, an inverted hierarchy. The road to honor and recognition goes through an offbeat, out-of-the-way, often overlooked sidetrack service. Service is the overflow of godly character and self-identifying as a bondservant.

Mark 9:35 If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.

“The key to greatness is not found in position or power, but in character. We get a throne by paying with our lives, not by praying with our lips. We must identify with Jesus Christ in His service and suffering, for even He could not reach the throne except by way of the cross” (Wiersbe).


© Dr. H 2022

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