"So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet" (John 13:4-5).
Jesus demonstrated the real spirit of leadership: He illustrated servant leadership. True service is a heart attitude, which means that right motives are essential. That is why believers cannot be forced to be servants; they must want it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, there are ways to develop a servant's heart. First, leaders must be committed to modeling Christ's example. Jesus specifically admonished His disciples to do so. Second, leaders need to understand servanthood. Serving others is not making ourselves subservient to others where we are controlled and dictated to by others. It has to do with blessing other people and helping them in any way we can.
Third, leaders must develop a love for people. The people that we love are the people that we will readily serve. Fourth, leaders must draw close to Jesus Christ. It is only with His empowerment that we develop the right heart and attitude towards others. Fifth, leaders must stop thinking that the world revolves around them; we need to develop a worldview. People who are self-absorbed want others to serve them; they are not very interested and motivated to serve others. Sixth, leaders must kill the desire to be the greatest and begin to think teamwork. The disciples of Jesus had a competitive spirit that fostered an environment of division. Using the example of a little child, Jesus corrected them by teaching them that true leadership was about serving rather than dominating others.
Some leaders think that servant leadership is either a weak model of leadership or that it gives followers too much power. As indicated above, that type of thinking clearly runs contrary to what Jesus believed. While leaders must demonstrate strong leadership, we must not think that involves dictating to people what they need to do. That type of dominating leadership does not affirm the value of people, does not validate them, and certainly does not motivate them to perform at their best. Insecure leaders are more apt to think this way; they tend to be authoritarian, valuing position and authority. Positional leaders expect to be served. All of us want to be or liked to be served, but the emphasis in Scripture is on giving.
Servant leaders recognize that all people are valuable. They do not see people as pawns existing merely to fulfill their plans. Developing a leadership team is about finding the right people but good leaders always show that their fellow leaders are more important than the tasks. Good leaders act in the best interests of their team while balancing the needs of the organization. Weak leaders are uncaring or insensitive. Some leaders simply have a functional view of people: they value people for what they do, not for who they are.
Servant leadership is about ascribing value and dignity to people. The general rule is to make others feel loved and they will love you in return. Consistency is the key: leaders must persist in showing love. The results may not be instantaneous but will be evident over time. When leaders fail to develop relationships, eventually, their followers feel alienated. This creates a negative atmosphere that can result in such things as grumbling, divisiveness, rebellion and abandonment.
Servant leadership is a scriptural approach to leadership that has been modeled and mandated by Jesus Christ. Persons who are contemplating leadership need to serve others rather than seek to be served. Leadership is not essentially about power, position, prestige and prosperity, but about helping others step into God's destiny for their lives while fulfilling corporate purpose. Leaders today are truly like Christ when they practice servant leadership.