Becoming a Servant Leader

Snow Covered Mountain Rangeby Gary Selman

The countless debacles and examples of greed, corruption, and character failure among executives in corporate America over the last 20 years have caused many deans, department chairs, and faculty members of the largest and most prestigious US business schools to question their contribution to the state of affairs in the world of business. Recent reports suggest that “Servant Leadership” is the fastest growing topic of focus and study in MBA programs nationwide. This shift in focus away from spreadsheet analysis, financial models and data to beliefs, values, and character is producing a new kind of business leader – a leader who leads from the heart instead of the head, a leader who relies on the power of love instead of fear. Love and compassion are the new drivers, motivators, and foundation for character and leadership. How can you become a servant leader who leads from the heart? First, let’s examine God’s Word to see what it says about the heart and love.

Leading from the Heart

God’s Word places a special emphasis on our heart (spirit). In fact, the word “heart” appears in 806 verses and 875 times in the Modern King James Version. The word “love” appears in 310 verses and a total of 342 times. God cares deeply about the condition of our heart and our love walk. As Christians in the marketplace we have been called to love God and to love others as ourselves. As servant leaders we must give freely and passionately while serving others with our gifts, talents, and skills. We must pour love into the hearts and lives of others, giving freely and willingly without expecting anything in return.

We Must Understand that God is Love

Understanding and fully accepting God’s love for us will determine the quality of our personal faith walk and our ability to effectively serve and lead others. It will be impossible to develop the heart of a servant leader unless we get our “love life” right. God’s Word teaches us about His love for us and what we are to do. Let’s turn to the Scriptures to see and experience love from God’s perspective.  God is love and Love is of God. When you read the word “God” think “Love.   1 John 4:7-12 says,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love. In this the love of God was revealed in us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation concerning our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Jesus Commands Us to Love

Jesus told us to do two things ­─ only two. His instructions were very simple so we should never be confused. Scripture tells us in John 15:12-17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, that you love one another.

Matthew 22:36-40 says,

Master, which is the great commandment in the Law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Love Transforms Your Heart and Prepares You to Become a Servant Leader

God calls us to be Christ like ─ to walk in love and serve others. In simple terms, we are to look for ways to be good to others and meet the needs of those we lead. We must have the love and compassion of Christ ─ the desire to stop and take time to meet their needs. Jesus’ disciples were generally on a mission, in a hurry to get to one place or another. They often turned aside those in need and told them to be quiet. Jesus was not in a hurry, He was never too busy to stop and give of himself to meet the needs of the lost, the blind, the sick, the lame, the hungry, the dying, the sinner. He was always focused on serving others and meeting their needs, doing good. God’s Word says in Act 10:38,

How God anointed and consecrated Jesus of Nazareth with the [Holy] Spirit and with strength and ability and power; how He went about doing good and, in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him. Do you start your day with the intent and desire to “do good to others?

Christ was willing to do good and serve others to the point of death ─ He gave himself to be crucified for us that we might be saved. 1 John 3:16-19 says,

By this we have known the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother having need, and shuts up his bowels from him, how does the love of God dwell in him? My children let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And in this we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

Love is a Servant Leader’s Power

Look at what the Bible tells us about the importance of love in our lives. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says,

If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I . . . have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).  Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.” This passage goes on to tell us what Christ-like love is: it is patient and kind, it is never envious or jealous, it is not conceited, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not resentful, it does not rejoice over injustice, it bears up under anything, it is always ready to believe the best in others, it never gives up hope, it never fails, and that if we have faith, hope, love—that the greatest of these is love!

Love changes every aspect of our lives. Love conquers all things. 1 Timothy 1:5 says, “Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith.”

Love Ensures You Have a Healthy Heart and Pure Motives

God’s Word tells us that God judges our hearts. We are called to walk with a pure and clean heart. When we are faithful and obedient to God we keep our heart pure and clean and walk in love. Satan, the accuser, wants to attack your heart (spirit). His desire is that you have a “Spiritual Heart Attack” and become separated from God’s love. His method of doing this is to convict you and cause you to feel shame, guilt, and condemnation whenever you miss the mark. He wants you to feel that you are unworthy of God’s love. In contrast, God’s mercy and grace ensures that you are protected from shame and condemnation. By walking in faith and following God’s Word, you can ensure that you have a clean, pure, and healthy heart and can resist Satan’s attacks on your heart!  We read in John 3:16-17,

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.


What is the condition of your heart (spirit)? Is it filled with love from God or fear from Satan?  Can you love and serve others freely and willingly without expecting anything in return? Can you put aside your personal desires and motives and imitate Jesus? Remember, it starts and ends with Jesus. Allow Him to fill you with His love, His mercy, and His grace today. Commit today to look for opportunities to love and serve others ─ on purpose.

Self Reflection & Application

  1. What did the Holy Spirit reveal to you about your leadership behavior?
  2. Do you lead with your head or with your heart (spirit)?
  3. Do you rely on the classic leadership model of power and control and use fear to get results or do you walk in love and compassion and serve those you are called to lead?
  4. What does “Servant Leadership” mean to you and how can you apply it at work?
  5. What does God’s love mean to you?
  6. How has God’s love changed your life, your relationships with others both at home and work and are you able to trust God’s love for you?
  7. Is your heart healthy ─ clean and pure or filled with fear, guilt, and shame?
  8. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you a new heart and commit today to start looking for opportunities to love and serve those you lead.