10 Powerful Qualities of Servant Leadership in the Bible

10 Powerful Qualities of Servant Leadership in the Bible

Women Ministering is about women who lead by serving and about basic principles of biblical life. To ‘minister’ literally means – to attend to the needs of someone. Women ministering are women who are serving God, attending to the needs of those around them by sharing God’s love. We minister in practical, spiritual, natural, and sacrificial ways. To be a ‘minister’ is to serve, and as part of serving we must emulate the 10 powerful qualities of servant leadership in the Bible.

Servant Leadership in the Bible

Jesus was a servant leader and He is our example of the proven power of servant leadership in the bible and the principle is still the one we look to today. Throughout the Bible, women, alongside men, were servant leaders. Women served Jesus, were at the cross and resurrection, and were an integral part of the formation of the early church, serving alongside the men. Servant leadership in the bible was established almost from the beginning as a principle for everyone to follow.

Deuteronomy 15:11 NIV, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Giving to others in need is servanthood. Leadership is guiding others in a direction by going in advance. The two words – servanthood and leadership – might seem to be opposite. A servant is not usually considered to be a leader since they are primarily doing what they have been told to do and are doing it in the background. Leaders, on the other hand, may be out front decision-makers. So, the term servant leader might appear to be an oxymoron. However, it is not.

Being a servant is a mind-set, a way of living, an attitude, and an activity. Leadership is the same. Servant Dictator would be an oxmoron! You may lead in one area of your life and be the follower in another, yet have the attitude of a servant in every area. You serve by leading; lead by serving; lead in an attitude of serving; and, serve in an attitude of leadership! The proven power of Servant leadership in the Bible looks that way just as it does today. It starts with humility and is characterized by the desire to see others succeed while engaging in self-sacrifice to make that happen.

You may lead in one area of your life and be the follower in another, yet have the attitude of a servant in every area. You serve by leading; lead by serving; lead in an attitude of serving; and, serve in an attitude of leadership! Click To Tweet

George Washington was a famous servant leader. He led the Continental Army in the Revolutionary war and was the first President of the United States who signed his letters like this, “Your most humble servant, George Washington.” He led in order to serve something greater than himself. Jesus led to serve someone greater than Himself. He led to serve us and the Father.

The Biblical Definition of Leadership

What is the biblical definition of leadership? Here is a verse from Deuteronomy giving instruction for anyone who was a King of Israel:

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 NIV, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”

Then, of course, Jesus defined true leadership for us. He said, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11 NIV; and, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 NIV

Then, of course, Jesus defined true leadership for us. He said, "The greatest among you will be your servant." Matthew 23:11 NIV Click To Tweet

In these instances, Jesus was addressing servanthood. Later, He appointed some of these same people to be the leaders in establishing His body here on earth – the Church. First, He addressed attitude, then He assigned leadership. In addition, He established His own status as a servant who would lead by giving His life as a ransom for many. This is servant leadership in the Bible.

Examples of Leaders in the Bible

There are many famous leaders in the Bible – Moses, Aaron, Jacob, David, the Kings, Nehemiah, Ruth, Deborah, in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we have: John the Baptist, the Disciples, Paul, Timothy, John, Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ Mother Mary, Phoebe, and just about everyone mentioned in the New Testament. Each one of them were leaders in some capacity who lived and died as servants of God and His people.

Moses never entered the Promised Land but gave his life to lead the children of Israel out of captivity. Joseph was persecuted by his own family and became a servant-leader to an ungodly King. Nehemiah left his position of service to a Persian King to go serve the nation of Israel by leading in rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem and establishing order. Almost all of the disciples were martyred but spent their lives serving the church and the people.

Jesus’ Leadership Model

We have already seen a few verses about Jesus being a servant. He was truly a leader but He did not seek fame, fortune, worship, or followers. He came to do what the Father had directed Him to do and that included serving the people by teaching them the truth, leading them into a new way of life, setting them free from bondage, and then sacrificing Himself for them and us.

His leadership model was to be an example; to be humble; keep His focus on His calling; put others ahead of Himself; live what He taught; and, to bring salvation to all who would come. This is the word of the cross.

First – Jesus Came to Serve The Father

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38 NIV

Second – Jesus Had an Unswerving Focus on Fulfilling His Calling

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 NIV

Third – Jesus Was Humble

  • Mark 9:35 NIV, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Fourth – Jesus was the Wisdom of God

but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24 NIV

Fifth – Jesus Knew God’s Word

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.Luke 24:27 NIV

Sixth – Jesus lived what He spoke

You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave.John 14:28-31 NIV

Seventh – Jesus was the servant of all

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!Philippians 2:5-8 NIV


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV

Ninth – Jesus was Truth and Was Not Afraid to Speak It

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV

Tenth – Jesus Had unfailing Love for Mankind

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23 NIV

Bible Verses About Servant Leadership

  • Hebrews 13:7 NIV, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
  • Matthew 23:8-12 NIV,But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Jesus was addressing a principle of humility and attitude of servanthood as He addressed the people and His disciples.
  • Romans 1:1 NIV,Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—”
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26 NIV, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
  • Romans 16:1 NIV, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae;”
  • Philippians 1:1 NIV, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:”

Clearly, the New Testament leaders had titles and were definitely looked to as leaders. At the same time, they were committed servants – first of God, then of mankind. They gave instructions, taught, baptized, prayed, sacrificed, were tortured, continued to share the good news, and built the church which survives today.

Women Who Followed Jesus (Leaders)

Women were included as leaders in the church. Jesus set an entirely new example in how He interacted with and treated women equally. Mary Magdalene, His Mother Mary, Martha and other women were His followers and sat in on His teaching. The other Mary, sister to Martha, sat at His feet as He taught. He interacted with the woman at the well which involved breaking a huge taboo. He freed the woman caught in adultery and turned His attention to the men who were stoning her, perhaps pointing out their own hypocrisy. Paul referred to Priscilla as a “fellow worker in Christ Jesus’ in Romans 16:3-5.

Women were present at the crucifixion and were appointed by Jesus to carry the news of His resurrection back to the men. This was highly unusual. Generally, the woman would have been instructed to get a man and have him relay the message. Women were in leadership in the early church.

In fact, some believe that Junia was an apostle. In Romans 16:7 NIV, Paul says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[a] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Since there is no context to know the true interpretation of the greek words used here, we look at the word ‘among’ that is the greek word ‘en’ which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means – “In, on, among. A primary preposition denoting position, and instrumentality, i.e. A relation of rest; ‘in, ‘ at, on, by, etc.”

Women Were Servant Leaders

I will leave the interpretation up to you, but it is clear that women played a leading role in the early church and do today as well. Christian Women are opening new frontiers in servant leadership as they open businesses and take leadership roles. Christian women bloggers are a growing community literally preaching the gospel in almost every nation. They are leaders in this and, believe me, it requires work and sacrifice.

As we have seen, the Word talks about leadership qualities and servanthood. There are two qualities which are foremost – devotion to Jesus and humility. Some of the other qualities are:

  • 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
  • John 13:13-17 NIV, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
  • Philippians 2:3-4 NIV, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

If we look to Jesus as our model for the proven power of servant leadership we see multiple qualities:

10 Powerful Qualities of a Servant Leader in the Bible

Jesus is our example of ultimate servant leadership:

  • Love and devotion to the Father
  • Unswerving focus on fulfilling His calling
  • Humility
  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge of the Word
  • Not a hypocrite – living what He spoke
  • The servant of all
  • Willing to sacrifice His life for others
  • Filled with truth and willing to speak it
  • Unfailing love for mankind

These are the qualities of a servant leader and of servant leadership in the Bible. Everyone can have them if they want them. When Jesus gave His new commandment, it summed up everything:

John 13:34 The Voice, “So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.”

That is undoubtedly the most important Scripture to remember about life and leadership – love fully and deeply; remember the ways God loves us, and demonstrate our love for others in the same way He demonstrated His love for us. I am including an EBook called “Women Changing the World.” I think you will really enjoy reading the stories of women who were and are changing their world. It also has scripture coloring pages and you can download it by clicking below

Women Changing the World

I highly recommend the book below. Years ago, while on church staff, we all went through this study together. It was very impacting and, while it is an older book, it has been updated and, as the title says, it is timeless wisdom. If you are wondering how to lead, study this book.

Servant Leadership In the Bible

To all you wonderful women who are ministering and serving God, I want to encourage you in knowing that you have a calling, you have a purpose, and God is equipping you to do His will. No matter what leadership position you fill, fill it with excellence and joy.

I have another resource for you to help you lead and still be yourself. That’s important! We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it would be better if we were someone else, but in God’s eyes that is just not true. It can be risky to be yourself, but it is worth the risk. I encourage you to purchase it below and pray each one of the prayers as often as you may need them.

Fleda Signature 2020

You might also enjoy reading – 5 Ways Women in Ministry Serve a Big God

**We use verses from different Bible translations. To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.

Podcast – 10 Powerful Qualities of Servant Leadership in the Bible

2 thoughts on “10 Powerful Qualities of Servant Leadership in the Bible”

    1. Thank you Rachel. It’s important to see the scriptural basis for the things we say so I always try to be diligent about writing in that way. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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