A servant-first mindset seeks to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. (Robert Greenleaf)


Robert Greenleaf said that the servant-leader is servant first. By that he meant that that the desire to serve is a fundamental characteristic of a servant-leader. It is not about being servile, it is about wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues, customers, and communities.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45

Skilled Characteristics

  • Inclusive

    Includes people in the decision making process

  • Empowering

    Empowers people and inspires them to perform

  • Example

    Leads by example

  • Teamwork

    Has a high emphasis on teamwork and relationship building with others

  • Helps

    Takes time to help people understand their strengths and weaknesses and allows them to choose roles that maximize their passions and interests

  • Perspective

    Sees things from others’ perspectives, exhibits patience, and shows empathy

  • Champion

    Helps people attain physical, intellectual, spiritual and relational vitality, allowing them to lead a balanced and full life

“I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.”

– Nelson Mandela

Unskilled Characteristics

  • Org First

    Puts the organization or team goals before the individual’s goals and desires

  • Forces

    Imposes goals, expectations and decisions on others without asking for their input or considering their wants and needs

  • Assumptions

    Assumes the worst in people, is impatient with people and unforgiving

  • Rigid

    Authoritarian and heirarchy focused

  • Demanding

    Demands or expects honor and respect from everyone lower than them in status

  • Title Power

    Uses their status, role, and title to get what they want

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

– John Maxwell

Causes of Weakness

  • Experience

    Past experiences with authoritarian leadership leads you to believe that an authoritarian leadership style is good and normal

  • Role Models

    Only ever experienced role models who exhibit authoritarian leadership

  • Culture

    Come from a culture that is very heirarchical and expects or demands people to show honor and respect to those of higher status

  • Insecure

    Insecurity or fear of asking others for their thoughts or ideas

  • Fear

    Fear that people might leave or do things differently if you gave them the option – or asked for their opinion

  • Wrong Belief

    Belief that leaders exist to be served, rather than to serve like Jesus did

In what ways do you need to shift from authoritarian leadership and move toward servant leadership?


Review the simple application steps below and choose 1 or 2 things you can do to spur yourself on to further growth.

  • Seek out Servant Leaders

    SEEK OUT SERVANT LEADERS: Seek servant leaders who can serve as role models and mentors to you. How do they lead? How do they treat people? What are their priorities? How do they make decisions? How do they communicate with others?

  • Read Books

    READ BOOKS: Read about Servant Leadership and identify what areas you want and need to change in your leadership style.

  • Study the Life of Jesus

    STUDY THE LIFE OF JESUS: Identify how Jesus served others. He asked questions, he empathized with people, he believed in people even when they didn’t believe in themselves, he forgave people, he cared about people’s life situations, he challenged people to step up into their God-given purpose, and he gave them opportunities to do so.

  • Face Your Fears

    FACE YOUR FEARS: Be willing to face your fears as a leader. Are you worried that someone else on your team can lead better than you? Why not raise them up to eventually replace you? Are you afraid that other people on your team might have better ideas than you? Why not invite their input and create solutions together? Are you afraid that your team might find out you are not perfect (or that you don’t already have all the answers) if you ask for their input, help or ideas? Do you really think your staff think you are pefect or know it all? If so, you’re wrong! You are human, and your team knows that. And believe it or not, they will respect you much more if you are real with them and allow yourself to be imperfect and not know it all.