What is servant leadership? Servant leadership is marked by three specific characteristics that we see in Jesus, our perfect example. These characteristics are humility, selflessness, and compassion. To see Jesus to imitate these, we don’t have to look very far into the New Testament.
HUMILITY: In Matthew 1, Jesus was willing to humble Himself and come to this Earth as a baby in a manger, even though He is God and the Creator of all things. In Matthew 23:12 Jesus said, “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus also gave us two other clear pictures of what humility looks like. One is found in John 13:5 as Jesus “poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” Can you imagine the King of kings stooping down to wash your feet? And then in Philippians 2:8, Paul writes that Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to humble Himself and accept the cruelest and most humiliating death that man had ever fashioned. Humility is a vital part of servant leadership.
SELFLESSNESS: Then there is the selflessness of Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” As King of the Universe, He had every right to make people serve Him, but instead, He chose to serve others and teach his disciples to do the same. You cannot be selfish and be a servant leader.
COMPASSION: Finally, a servant leader must be compassionate toward those he serves. He must care about the physical and the spiritual needs of others. For example, Jesus was compassionate to the masses who came to Him; He healed their sick (Matthew 14), gave them food to eat (Matthew 15), and helped those who were hurting (Luke 7). Most importantly, Jesus met their spiritual need, and ours too, in giving us all a Savior to redeem us. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).