Servant Leadership: Practices
“Content: Practicing Servant Leadership Today
– Part 2”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:3
Charting Your Course

Practice Content: continued. Two articles are companions,
together presenting the content and a graph on servant leaders today. After
this outline, we will continue with Practice #4.

Content – Part 1 (SL#62)

Practice #1 – Empowered Leadership
Practice #2 – Ethical Leadership
Practice #3 – Enabling Leadership

Content – Part 2 (SL#63)

Practice #4 – Effective Leadership
Practice #5 – Efficient Leadership

Practice #4. Effective

“Doing the right things on purpose.”
Servant leaders intentionally seek to establish kingdom mission, goals, and direction with the church body and its members. That is the mark of effectiveness, or excellence, Paul sought in the service of Christ:

2 Tim. 2:15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Phil. 3:12-14Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Note: For further development of “effective leadership” see Transformative Leadership in SL#68 and Mission/Vision-Centered Leadership in SL#70.

1. Personal effectiveness. Commit yourself to a lifetime of growth, development, and contribution:

  • Continue to learn about your service/leadership roles–from Scripture, studies, experience, mentors, and ministry team members.
  • Covey, Habit #7– “Sharpen the saw is the endowment of continuous improvement or self-renewal to overcome entropy” (Principle-Centered Leadership, p. 47). He also admonishes: “Think effectiveness
    with people; efficiency with things and methods”
    (p. 52).
  • Discover and put into practice your spiritual gifts, empowering you to work with others to pursue kingdom goals.

    Romans 12:8. . . if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; . . . Actually exercise consistently your giftedness, what you have learned, and the skills developed.

  • Personal effectiveness has a diverse set of traits and skills; examples only include:
    • a personal sense of mission and calling
    • high regard and respect for others
    • integrity in behavior and methods
    • communication skills, with a focus on listening
    • forward-looking, visionary
    • intelligence, job knowledge
    • energy for “2nd mile” efforts
  1. Congregational effectiveness–work with your team or the congregation to establish and achieve kingdom goals.
  • Think about the congregation as a social/spiritual “system”–the connectedness of the parts affect the whole. Do not be shortsighted or crisis/event driven.
  • Establish with the congregation a kingdom-size mission/vision as its true center.
  • Assess its actual situation, its opportunities, challenges, and resources.
  • Cast the mission/vision into a desired future.
  • Empower the coworkers to transform vision into a new reality; implement toward desired results with objectives, goals, and action plans.
  • Effective leaders consistently develop as servant leaders; and, they consistently work with others to pursue kingdom purposes. Congregations deserve, if not demand, that of us.
  • Take a careful look at your administrative skills; it is a common way to move deeper into servant leadership.

James H. Landes: A Model of Servant Leadership:
Personal Tribute by Lloyd Elder

James H. Landes–pastor, executive, visionary, Christian gentleman–was for 25 years my friend and valued mentor; and for three years my “boss.”  From extensive notes taken on many occasions and diverse circumstances in the 1970’s, I have gleaned his guidance about Christian ministry/leadership, which he consistently lived and practiced.

  1. Respect individuals and individuality.
  2. Develop those who work with you to their full potential.
  3. Develop a sense of gratitude; be gentle and caring in your relationship with others.
  4. Keep structures that permit change and renewal.
  5. Live your life fully motivated by the cross of Jesus Christ; seek to know the will of God for your life and work.
  6. Learn all you can about the institutions, churches, associations, BGCT, agencies, and the SBC.
  7. Constructive criticism of the denomination is in order.
  8. Make judgments knowing that your judgments are only approximations of the whole.
  9. Prevent dry-rot in the denomination: search for the right people; develop open, healthy environment and communications.
  10. Provide for self-criticism; build it into the process; know and accept yourself.
  11. Be more interested in what is going to be rather than in what has been; live with purpose.
  12. Love: first, last, in every way–love.

Practice #5. Efficient Leadership:
“Doing the right things in the right way.”
Servant leadership competently organizes and administers ministries and tasks toward the support of kingdom mission and goals. “Management” and skill development are not unimportant disciplines–they are a must in a serving church. For additional development of “efficient leadership” see SL#72, Administrative Management Leadership.

  1. There is no single word in the Bible translated “efficient,”
    but . . .
  • There are several words carrying that concept of “efficiency”:
    order, orderly, manage, administration, stewardship, and others. Our own vocabulary has a plethora of such terms: able, capable, useful, accomplished, competent, practiced, fitted, “handy,” even well-organized.
  • Competence: Beyond any doubt, the fundamental way to be a servant leader is to do well whatever tasks, function, or role you offer as a follower of Christ. My mother, Dorris D. Elder, spent much of her life
    keeping infants in the church nursery–superbly well. She was one of my models as a servant leader. Others may be “out front,” but Mother was “down on the inside” doing a service that blessed the whole life of the church.
  • Administration: 1 Cor. 12:28– “those with gifts of administration” (from the word to steer, steerage, one who is a steersman, a pilot). The word indicates proofs of ability to hold a leading position in the church. Some are gifted by the Spirit to lead the church body to organize its ministries and resources to move together toward the larger purpose. In 2 Cor. 8:20-21, Paul described the careful way he and others administered the generous gift for the Jerusalem poor; efficiency implemented the mission.
  • Stewardship: probably the NT word most like “management” or “administration,” meaning one who has charge over the affairs of others:
    • Luke 16:2 — “Give an account of your management.”
    • Luke 12:42 — “Who then is the faithful and wise manager?”
    • 1 Cor. 4:2 — “it is required of stewards that one be found
  • Management: is expressed in the NT by two different words–both used in 1 Tim. 3:1-5:
    • One who desires to be an “overseer” (episkopos) must be above reproach: one who looks carefully for, who considers, a watchman.
    • One who demonstrates he is able to take care of God’s church by “managing” well his own family: one who is set over, who stands before, who has charge of.
  • Order(ly) is a term in the NT that emphasizes order, disciplined arrangement, organization:
    • Titus 1:5 — Paul reminded Titus that he was left on the isle of Crete to “set in order” and finish the work.
    • 1 Cor. 14:40 — In the midst of spiritual gifts and church worship, Paul told the church that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
  1. Management leadership within the congregation
    may be guided by the few but is implemented by many individuals and teams.  There are typical roles and tasks such as:
  • communications
  • planning/organizing
  • budgeting/controlling
  • allocating resources
  • supervising/directing
  • training/development
  • office procedures
  • building management
  • evaluating/assessing

Well, this concludes the presentation of a visual and explanation of five practices of being a servant leader today. If you were to lead a conference on “Practicing Servant Leadership,” what would your major points be? Where will you start your practice? How could this article assist your practice and teaching?

Robert Greenleaf: Ten Characteristics
of the Servant-Leader

Study Abstract – Prepared by Lloyd Elder

The following ten characteristics of servant-leadership are abstracted from Reflections on Leadership, “Introduction: Servant-Leadership and The Greenleaf Legacy” (p. 4-7) by Larry Spears, who is editor
of the book. Larry Spears, executive director of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, quotes from the New York Times:

Servant leadership deals with the reality of power in everyday life–its legitimacy, the ethical restraints upon it and the beneficial results that can be attained through the appropriate use of power.

After some years of carefully considering Greenleaf’s original writings, Larry Spears has identified the following 10 critical characteristics of the servant-leader:

Ten Critical Characteristics of the Servant-Leader:

  • Listening: Although leaders have been valued for their communication and decision-making skills, servant-leaders must reinforce these important skills by listening intently to others.
  • Empathy: Servant-leaders strive to understand and empathize with others, and to accept and recognize people for their special and unique spirits.
  • Healing: Learning to heal one’s self and others is a powerful force for transformation, integration, and healing the brokenhearted.
  • Awareness: General awareness, and especially self-awareness, strengthens the servant-leader; it also aids in understanding issues involving ethics and values.
  • Persuasion: Servant-leaders rely upon persuasion, rather than positional authority. In making decisions within an organization, they seek to convince others rather than coerce compliance.
  • Conceptualization: Servant-leaders seek to nurture their abilities to “dream great dreams”; to encompass broader-based conceptual thinking; and to articulate these to others.
  • Foresight: The ability to foresee likely outcomes of a situation is hard to define, but includes understanding lessons from the past, realities of the present, and likely consequences of a decision for the future.
  • Stewardship: By “holding something in trust for another,”  servant-leadership–like stewardship–assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others.
  • Commitment to the growth of people: People have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers; as such, servant-leaders are deeply committed to their own personal, professional, and spiritual growth, and especially to the young.
  • Building community: Servant-leaders seek to identify and demonstrate building true community among those who work within a given institution; institutions need our caring.

Close this window

© 2006; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership