The Seven Faces of Servant Leadership

The 7 Faces of Leadership

Most people can manage when things go well, but true leadership is how we cope with people when times are tough. Our expectations are often unrealistic and not centered on what leadership is really about. Too often people confuse a strong-willed personality as an effective leader. Leadership is not being strong-willed, rather having a strong sense of purpose and compassion. Too many organizations substitute strong-willed people for ethical leaders and see no distinction, because the people who put them in power don’t know the difference. Effective Leadership involves equipping people to live competently and confidently.

Effective leadership traits are as varied and numerous, not to mention subtle, as the human mind and heart themselves. No list will ever be complete, nor will it be the best suited for each individual reader. The bible gives some insight of the essential characteristics of effective leadership in I Corinthians, Ephesians, and 2 Timothy such as humility, integrity, focus, courage, discipline, compassion, and encouragement. The following paragraphs will place those characteristics into an organizational context.

The Humble Leader

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

Humility is not just about our relationship with God but it’s also about our relationship with other people. Relationships are built on listening, to God’s Word and to each other. The relationship between a leader and follower is only as good as their ability to listen. The effective leader will not be a force of just personality and power plays but relationship oriented, centered on building and mentoring.

From and organizational context humble leaders invite feedback and turn lessons into failures. “The leader that is poor in spirit recognizes that many people know more than he or she does and, as such, shows respect to everyone.” (Winston 2002) Humility is acceptance of our human limitations coupled with the resolve to do something about it — I can’t do it alone so I will enlist the help of others. This is the essence of leadership.

The Honest Leader

“Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25)

Honesty is achieved through Discretion and truthfulness. Discretion keeps our minds and focus on sound judgment, giving serious attention and thought to what is going on. It will carefully choose our words, attitudes, and actions to be right for any given situation, thus avoiding words and actions that could result in adverse consequences. Truthfulness means being straight with others and doing what is right.

“It’s after we have contemplated our own actions, measuring how they align with our values, intentions, and words, that we are most likely to make a contribution of integrity to the world.” (Sherman, 2003) Discretion and truthfulness allow leaders to earn trust by being accurate with facts and situations. This doesn’t simply mean honesty, or acting in accordance with a consistent set of values. This also means integrity in the sense of soundness, completeness, and unity. Aligning our personality with our values and not compromising ourselves is the spirit of leadership.

The Focused Leader

Leaders must be willing to carefully explore their values and how they can move their organization in the direction of a vision that is unwavering. Effective Leaders lead with a purpose rather than “run like a man running aimlessly” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). From the biblical sense this means that we live for His purpose, not ours. As Christians, we recognize that our need for Christ will bring us beyond our failures so we can grow increasingly effective for our Lord. As we grow in Christ, we will become aware of our futility and inadequacy as human beings.

From an organizational perspective, “leaders need to continually put the vision and mission (related to the purpose) in front of followers.” (Winston, 2002) Followers must understand the organization’s vision and know their role in support of the mission. They must know their purpose and how it contributes to organizational success, this is the soul of leadership.

The Courageous & Disciplined Leader

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7)

The goal of the servant leader must be to do God’s will. Otherwise we will be too afraid to go beyond our comfort zones to do anything of significance. When we are dependent on the Holy Spirit; then our self-confidence becomes rooted and dependent in Christ working through us. So we are not self-driven but Christ driven; resulting in our will to be in total surrender to God’s will as the driving force for our existence. When we’re aware that we are not responsible for the results of our leadership, but only the obedience to His call, only then can we persevere to press on to serve Him without the fear of failure.

Malphurs (2003) refers to courage as “the strength to lead in these difficult circumstances, meaning that courageous leaders are strong and unlikely to quit.” This kind of courage displays itself in an organization when a leader is willing to admit his mistake, when she is willing to stand up for her beliefs, or when he must challenge others.

Courageous leaders routinely get extraordinary results from their followers because they aren’t afraid to do what’s right. This is evident in Paul’s letter regarding discipline in 1 Corinthians 8:13, “if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” Conveying who you are, your goals and what you stand for can have a significant impact on follower performance and attitudes. Controlled discipline, according to Winston (2002), “draws people closer to you, whereas uncontrolled discipline drives them away.” Leaders and followers are two sides of a single coin and the actions of one impact the other. Courage and discipline are the armor of leadership.

The Compassionate Leader

The compassionate leader is rooted and grounded in the spiritual disciplines of faith. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”. (Ephesians 6:11). With the power of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of faith in Christ, when we are modeling His image with love, we become a strong building with the foundation of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit who gives the realization to be our best for God’s glory.

“Loyalty and devotion to task and grow out of trust and the knowledge of protection that comes from the employment relationship.” (Winston, 2002) Compassionate leadership is acting in the interest of your followers, your peers, and your organization. This is the boss for whom the employees are willing to work their hardest. The employees can feel her support for them and are compelled to give their full support in return. This manager brings out the best in her subordinates by her own example. There is often a line of people waiting to join this department. This is the heart of leadership.

The Encouraging Leader

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called”. (Ephesians 4:3-4)

The effective leader will not be a force of just personality and power plays. Servant Leaders cannot be power seeking controllers of others lives, when it is the Lord who is in control. Effective leaders must be relationship oriented, centered on building and mentoring others.

In an organizational framework, an encouraging leader is a motivator. “Leadership is being able to both motivate and administrate.” (Miller, 1995) A leader’s ability to motivate revolves around his or her ability to leverage power and influence within the organization, among peers, and over followers. Influence involves moving people to change their thinking and ultimately their behavior. Power is the ability to exert control over another person, thing, or event. “Power and influence are intertwined in the leadership process. Most often leaders use both depending on the situation and the people involved.” (Malphurs, 2003) Leaders will sometimes use power to influence followers. Power itself is amoral. However, the use power (abuse or neglect) determines how leaders influence others. The proper use of that power is encouragement, which is the igniter of leadership.

The Call to Servant Leadership

In Matthew 5 Jesus makes us aware of what God expects from not just Christian leaders, but from all Christians. Effective leaders are expected to lead by example. If our actions cause our followers to fail because they followed our example as in 1 Corinthians 8:13 then we should avoid such things because “…those who indulge will become more and more ungodly”. (2 Timothy 2:15) Everything that we do as leaders is under scrutiny by our followers. In the Beatitudes, Jesus gives very specific characteristics: humility, compassion, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, honesty, and perseverance.

In organizations, just as in the Christian community, there are times when leaders fall away from these characteristics through personal loss or personal sin. Building and developing these characteristics is not something we just learn from a book or hear from a sermon. It does not sneak up on us in the middle of the night. It does not come automatically, accidentally, or suddenly. It is a process that comes from living in it. It is a slow process. Many fail to realize they have it until others point it out. Effective leadership is not permanent once it is formed. It requires our continual appreciation and practice.


Fields, Bea (2005). The Ten Pillars of Leadership and Business Development. Retrieved electronically.

Holy Bible (1985). King James Version Study Bible. Zondervan, Grand Rapids Michigan

Malphurs, Aubrey (2003) Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Miller, Calvin (1995). The Empowered Leader: 10 Keys to Servant Leadership. Broadman & Holman Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee.

Sherman, Stratford (2003). Rethinking Integrity. Leader to Leader, No. 28

Winston, Bruce (2002). Be a Leader for God’s Sake. Regent University, School of Leadership Studies. Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Lieutenant Kenneth Rice is an Active Duty Naval Officer stationed in Norfolk VA. Lieutenant Rice is a graduate of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia where he received a Masters of Science in Educational Leadership and an Education & Training Management Subspecialty. He is currently enrolled in the Naval War College completing the Joint Professional Military Education Phase I and at Regent University working towards a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership.

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