Jesus’ leadership example is servant-leadership. He “came not to be served but to serve” (Mat. 20:28). Servant leadership has a two-fold emphasis: 1) the servant-character of the leader and 2) the importance of the people being led.
In any organization, people are the greatest resource or asset. They are more important than money or raw material. How the leader views people will ultimately determine how he or she treats them. Without the proper treatment of people, there can be no true leadership. A people-first mindset is perhaps the most unique aspect of servant-leadership when compared to secular leadership.
An emphasis on the people being led will manifest itself practically in a leader seeking to be among his people and aware of their needs. One preacher describes his application of this principle, “When I became the pastor of a small church, I involved myself in everything…Since I worked closely with everyone, they all knew me… Because of that close contact with people, I could invest myself into individual lives with great energy and good results.” Relationships are vital in leadership because they foster familiarity and comfort with the leader’s role. Because servant-leadership is focused on the people’s needs, relationships serve as a common tool. That familiarity with a leader’s people will help them know how to lead these people better. A leader learns what often causes sheep to bite and act mean. You also begin to learn which hills you need to die on and which ones can wait for another time to be climbed.
It does not take a title or rank to be a servant-leader. Those who serve others are themselves leaders because their influence is to God’s glory and the transformation of the people they serve. When you are simply an example to other people, you are a leader. When you seek to foster a relationship for God’s glory you are as much a leader as any person could be.
A common form of caring for people’s needs in servant-leadership is compassion. In the footsteps of Christ, leaders should have compassion on those who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mat. 9:36). The mission of leaders is to equip the saints for service, not management. An uncompassionate leader is not concerned in the growth and transformation of the saints so that they can serve the Lord, instead he keeps the status quo by simply dowsing fires and moving pieces. Instead, we must have compassion for people that stems from our passion for Christ. We cannot minister for God without portraying the Christ of compassion. The man of God who is deficient in compassion deprives humanity of the heart of Christianity.