Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership Principles

A Venn Diagram showing the similarities and differences between the Green leaf’s principle and Chritianity’s principle of servant leadership.

The overlapping sections of the circles marked, D, indicate the similarities the two servant leadership principles have while the differences are represented by the individual circles marked C and G respectively. The overall principles of servant leadership by Greenleaf are; Listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth, building community, calling and nurturing the spirit.

The similarities in of these principles are; service to people which has a lot of supporting factors and characteristics. The Bible talks about servant leadership being practical in that a leader does not just give direction and orders but shows by example. Case in point is the lecture Jesus gave to the wife of Zebedee and her sons when she attempted to ask that Jesus gives them preferential treatment. (Matthew 20:21-22) The Greenleaf’s principle has a similar element in that a leader should show his subordinates what they mean when giving directions on a particular course of action. A servant leader listens to other people’s ideas instead of forcing their own ideas without entertaining criticism. This is similar to the Christian view of humility which allows a leader to take correction positively. A servant leader must have a vision for his people, it can be referred to as the foresight characteristic. Jesus was also aware of His difficult future when He asked the sons of Zebedee whether they could drink from His cup (Matthew 20:22).

In Matthew 20: Jesus feels the anger the other ten disciples feels when they learn about the attempt by the Zebedee brother’s to find favor in Jesus’s eyes. He is empathetic to their feelings, an important servant leader trait to have as per Greenleaf’s principles. He also helped healing the division among them by reminding them that He was powerless and only God could fix things according to His will. Jesus also exhibited self-awareness when He admitted that He was going to take the role of a servant because it was His idea of leadership as it is in Matthew 20:27-28. According to Greenleaf, this trait is priceless in leadership. It undermines the leaders’ quest for greatness in leadership and advocates for humility in the same position.

Open communication lines between the leader and the people they serve stresses further, the importance of conceptualization (Sandling, 2014). A servant leader is only one when the people they serve are able to grow positively in the process of achieving the great dream their leader has for them. For instance; Jesus was a servant of the people and his disciples as well. He made them better people in the course of their evangelization. The same applies to a servant leader heading an organization, he ensures that his employees are being better workers every day. They work for the greater good of the people not because they get paid but because they have it in them to help people, stewardship (Sandling, 2014).

Servant leaders in the Bible and in Greenleaf’s principles have another common aspect, they both bring people together in the long-run. The leaders take their time in finding out what the people they serve need and if possible engage them in bringing to fruition their dreams. Servant leaders are just people with a heart and the ability to steer people in the right direction (Sandling, 2014). 

The differences in the two principles are spread across the different aspects of leadership. According to the Bible, leaders are chosen by God and have a higher probability of taking divine orders to be servant leaders as opposed to the ones working under Greenleaf’s principles. The servant leadership trait in Greenleaf’s principles, is often a personal choice. A leader without the natural servant-ship cannot learn how to be a servant leader (Greenleaf, 2016). Servant leaders in Greenleaf’s principles operate on reasoning with employees to get things done as opposed to issuing directives to other employees. A servant leader is supposed to have sharp conflict resolution skills like Jesus had when the other ten disciples found fault with the request put in by the wife of Zebedee.

Servant leadership requires passion. An individual called to serve must be willing to serve in leadership for them to succeed. It is utterly important that people in leadership get comfortable in the role for them to be effective. The ideas of leadership mainly come from knowledge and the gift of being in a position to serve people well. It is highly likely that a leader will serve in that capacity at different times in their lives recurrently while some people never get a shot at leadership. Leadership is all about sharing the knowledge with others and making everyone better in the process. Servant leadership is sharing and being ready to take charge when needed.

To conclude on servant leadership, the Greenleaf’s principles summarize the practical and applicable aspect of servant leadership as would apply in the world as it is. The Biblical servant leadership manual is also noble and partly applicable because in some cases, being a servant while being a leader in the current world may be difficult to balance with achieving the best possible results in an organization.  


Greenleaf, R. K. (2016, December 31). Center for Servant Leadership. Retrieved from Greenleaf Centre:

Sandling, J. (2014, July 2). The Principles of Servant Leadership. Retrieved from

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