6 Lessons I’ve Learned about True Leadership

In my almost two decades of being a pastor and a leader, I have been challenged over and over again by Jesus’ words when he said:

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:25-28]

This is the way we are to lead others… especially in the church. This is not a top-down, “you work for me”, “the buck stops here” style of leadership. This leadership looks to serve others, promote others, empower others, and make others greater.

So here are 6 things that I have learned over the years about Leadership that have helped me lead more like Jesus:


If your goal is to serve others and elevate others and equip others, then you cannot think of yourself first. Paul dives into this kind of thinking and mindset in Philippians 2. I’m going to save a lot of this point for a follow-up post… but if you are going to be a servant leader… it has to start here.


What is your goal as a leader? Do you want others to say they “love working FOR YOU?” Do you want the recognition? Do you want others to just do your bidding and fall all over themselves because of your ideas? Well, that is not servant leadership. Servant leadership is all about SERVING SOMEONE ELSE. Our first inclination… our deep motive… should be TO SERVE, not BE SERVED.


Leaders do a lot. But it isn’t what we know how to do that makes us good servant leaders. What makes us good servant leaders is knowing how to delegate what we could do to others… and then giving them the credit for how well they do them. If your leadership is only as good as what you can do… then it won’t go very far. But if you surround yourself with others who can do far more and better than you can… and you elevate them and give them the credit for it, you’re a way more valuable servant leader.


Every time I use this analogy I lose people. They usually say “What does this have to do with leadership or with serving someone else?” Those are fair questions. But just think for a minute what each of these things do. What is their function? A lid puts a cap on a jar’s capacity. It says “you may not go past here!” A trampoline, on the other hand, says “you can jump on me and use my ability to propel yourself as high as you would like to go!” So… ask yourself, “What type of leader am I? Am I a lid? Do I cap the growth of my team or organization? Or am I a trampoline? Do I catapult others higher and higher because they are around me?”


One of the things that I have learned is that I don’t have to have all the best ideas. In fact, if I am going to lead a team to greatness… it’s not going to be because I have all the great ideas. Great TEAMS generate great ideas. I have often said to my teams, “Guys, listen, I don’t have to have the best idea in the room… I need to have the people with the best ideas in the room!”


One of the major issues I have had over the years is the need to control things. When you have a vision for something, you tend to want everything to look, act, and feel like that vision. So what do you do? You control it. The rub, however, is that control actually stunts that vision from growing. I know it may sound counter-intuitive, but if you want something to grow… you have to let it go. Craig Groeschel said it this way, “You can have control or growth… but you can’t have both.”

Leadership is hard work. Servant Leadership is even harder work… but the reward is worth it!

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