Servant Leadership: Insights from Jesus’ Call to the Twelve



Servant Leadership: Insights from Jesus’ Call to the Twelve

Servant Leadership: Insights from Jesus’ Call to the Twelve

In an era commonly associating leadership with power and authority, Jesus’ teachings introduce a transformative idea: servant leadership. As captured in Mark 9:35, Jesus emphasized that those who aspire to be leaders must embrace humility and service to others. This profound statement not only redefines the meaning of greatness but also offers an enduring model for effective and compassionate leadership, serving as a timeless blueprint for leaders seeking to make a positive impact.

Understanding the Context 

In response to a disagreement among His disciples regarding their relative importance, Jesus Christ imparted a significant teaching. By assuming a seated position, a customary posture associated with the transmission of wisdom, Jesus underscored the profound significance of His message. Addressing His most devoted followers, the Twelve Apostles, He presented a leadership paradigm that starkly contrasted with worldly perspectives.

How did Jesus exemplify servant leadership?

Jesus exemplified servant leadership through his actions, teachings, and interactions with people throughout his life. Here are some key ways he demonstrated this leadership style:

Servant Leadership: Insights from Jesus’ Call to the Twelve

Humility and Service Through Washing the Disciples’ Feet: In the Gospel of John (13:1-17), during the Last Supper, Jesus exemplified humility and service by washing the feet of his disciples. This act, usually done by servants, symbolized the importance of serving others and leading by example. Jesus instructed his disciples to follow his example, emphasizing that leaders should serve their followers.

True Greatness Comes from Service: In the Gospel of Mark (10:42-45), Jesus taught that true greatness is achieved through serving others. Unlike worldly rulers who exercise power over others, Jesus explained that in his kingdom, those who seek greatness must become servants and slaves to all. He emphasized that even he, the Son of Man, came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

Compassion and Care for Others:

  • Healing and Miracles: Jesus consistently displayed compassion by healing the sick, providing sustenance to the hungry, and comforting those in distress. These actions exemplified his unwavering dedication to the well-being of others, irrespective of their social status or background. Notable examples include the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21) and the healing of lepers (Luke 17:11-19), both of which showcased his servant heart.

         4.Sacrificial Love:

  • Sacrifice on the Cross: The ultimate exemplification of servant leadership was Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice his own life for the salvation of humanity. This act of selfless love and sacrifice constitutes a central tenet of the Christian faith and demonstrates the profound depth of his commitment to serving others. In Philippians 2:5-8, the Apostle Paul writes about Jesus’ humility and obedience, even to the point of death on a cross, as a model for believers to emulate.

5.Empowerment and Delegation: Jesus empowered his disciples to continue his work by giving them authority and responsibility. He entrusted them with the task of making disciples of all nations, as recorded in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). By doing so, Jesus demonstrated trust in his followers and equipped them to lead and serve others.

6.Inclusivity and Breaking Social Barriers: Jesus reached out to marginalized groups in society, including women, tax collectors, and sinners. His interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26) and his defense of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) exemplified his commitment to inclusivity and justice. Jesus valued the dignity of every person.

These examples highlight how Jesus lived out the principles of servant leadership, focusing on humility, service, compassion, sacrifice, empowerment, and inclusivity. His life and teachings continue to serve as a powerful model for servant leadership in various contexts today.

How can servant leadership improve workplace culture?

Servant leadership can significantly improve workplace culture by fostering a positive and supportive environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and empowered. Here’s how:

Benefits of Servant Leadership:

  1. Increased Employee Engagement: By showing care and support, servant leaders create a sense of belonging and loyalty, leading to higher engagement and commitment.
  2. Enhanced Collaboration and Teamwork: Servant leaders promote open communication, respect, and inclusivity, fostering collaboration, innovation, and productivity.
  3. Improved Morale and Satisfaction: Recognizing contributions and celebrating successes boosts morale and creates a positive work environment.
  4. Higher Levels of Trust and Loyalty: Transparency, integrity, and empathy build trust and loyalty, leading to stronger relationships and retention.
  5. Empowerment and Growth Opportunities: Providing growth, learning, and skill development opportunities empowers employees, fosters a culture of continuous improvement, and helps them achieve career goals.
  6. Reduced Turnover and Absenteeism: A positive workplace culture created by servant leadership reduces turnover and absenteeism, saving costs and improving productivity.
  7. Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty: Happy and engaged employees deliver excellent customer service, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  8. Adaptability and Resilience: Servant leaders encourage innovation, embrace change, and support employees during challenges, fostering adaptability and resilience in a dynamic business environment.

Servant leadership has the ability to significantly enhance the workplace environment through the establishment of a supportive, comprehensive, and empowering ecosystem wherein employees are accorded value, motivated, and inspired to deliver their optimal output. This not only has a positive impact on individual employees but also contributes to the success and long-term sustainability of the organization as a whole. 

What are some benefits of adopting a servant leadership approach?

Servant leadership offers several benefits both for leaders and their teams:

Servant Leadership: Insights from Jesus’ Call to the Twelve
  1. Cultivating Trust and Collaboration: Servant leaders prioritize team member needs, fostering an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. When employees feel appreciated and supported, they are more likely to contribute ideas and collaborate effectively.
  2. Enhancing Employee Engagement: By focusing on team member growth and development, servant leaders can increase employee engagement. When employees believe their leaders care about their well-being and professional growth, they are more motivated and dedicated to their work.
  3. Improving Performance and Productivity: Servant leaders empower team members to take ownership and make autonomous decisions. This autonomy can lead to improved performance and productivity since employees feel empowered to initiate and innovate.
  4. Facilitating Effective Communication and Feedback: Servant leaders prioritize open and honest communication with their team members. By actively listening to concerns and providing constructive feedback, servant leaders foster a culture of continuous improvement and development.
  5. Bolstering Employee Satisfaction and Retention: When employees feel supported and valued by leaders, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and remain loyal to the organization. This can lead to lower turnover rates, reducing costs associated with hiring and training.
  6. Promoting a Positive Organizational Culture: Servant leadership cultivates a positive organizational culture built on empathy, integrity, and ethical behavior. When leaders exemplify humility and selflessness, they set a culture tone for the entire organization.

Overall, adopting a servant leadership approach can lead to a more engaged, motivated, and productive workforce, ultimately driving organizational succes


Jesus’ call to the Twelve Apostles to be “the very last, and the servant of all” presents a timeless model for leadership that prioritizes humility, empathy, and service. By embracing these principles, we can redefine greatness and create a more compassionate and effective approach to leadership. Whether in the workplace, community, or personal relationships, servant leadership fosters environments where everyone can thrive, leading to a more just and caring world.


1. What is servant leadership? 

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the primary goal of the leader is to serve others. This is in contrast to traditional leadership, where the leader’s main focus is the thriving of their company or organization. Servant leaders prioritize the needs and well-being of their team members and communities.

2. How did Jesus demonstrate servant leadership? 

Jesus demonstrated servant leadership through acts of humility and service, such as washing His disciples’ feet, healing the sick, and teaching His followers to love and serve one another. His ultimate act of servanthood was sacrificing His life for the salvation of humanity.

3. What are the key principles of servant leadership? 

The key principles of servant leadership include:

  • Empathy and compassion
  • Empowerment of others
  • Clear vision and purpose
  • Stewardship of resources
  • Building inclusive and collaborative communities

4. How can I practice servant leadership in my workplace? 

You can practice servant leadership in the workplace by:

  • Actively listening to your employees and colleagues
  • Supporting their professional development
  • Encouraging a culture of feedback and collaboration
  • Leading by example with humility and integrity

5. Why is humility important in servant leadership?

 Humility is important in servant leadership because it allows leaders to put the needs of others before their own, fostering a supportive and trusting environment. Humble leaders are more approachable, willing to learn from others, and focused on the collective success rather than personal accolades.


  1. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership – What is Servant Leadership?
    • This resource provides a comprehensive overview of the principles and practices of servant leadership, inspired by Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term.
  2. Harvard Business Review – The Best Leaders Are Humble Leaders
    • An article discussing the importance of humility in leadership and how it contributes to effective management and team dynamics.
  3. Forbes – 10 Ways to Practice Servant Leadership
    • Practical tips and strategies for implementing servant leadership in various organizational settings.
  4. The Leadership Quarterly – Servant Leadership: A Systematic Review and Call for Future Research
    • A scholarly article that reviews existing research on servant leadership and suggests directions for future studies.
  5. Bible Gateway – Mark 9:35 (NIV)
    • The scriptural reference for Jesus’ teaching on servant leadership, providing the biblical foundation for the concept.
  6. Mind Tools – Servant Leadership: Putting Your Team First, and Yourself Second
    • An accessible guide to understanding and applying servant leadership principles in everyday work and life.
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