Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.

1 Timothy 4:16

Do you give yourself enough credit for working on being a servant leader? I bet you don’t. Servant leadership can be challenging. You should give yourself more credit for choosing this leadership path.


“Wait a minute!” you may be saying. My last post was about the critical importance of being humble. And now I’m telling you to pat yourself on the back for how you lead – for how you serve. Am I contradicting myself?


Actually, no.


The core of humility is self-awareness. You can’t truly be humble about a strength you don’t understand and value. As strange as it may sound, to ensure your humility, you’ve got to deepen your insight into — and appreciation for — the thing you’re being humble about. You must acknowledge your work effort, growth, and results – and then bless them and give them up to God.


If you don’t do this – if you don’t cultivate this self-awareness as a servant leader – you risk getting resentful when results take longer to achieve than expected or prideful when they take less time to achieve than expected. Resentfulness and pride both get in the way of humility.


You can prevent resentfulness and pride, deepen humility, and take your servant leadership effectiveness to the next level in just 5 minutes a day. Simply spend time reflecting on, gaining insight into, and giving thanks for your ability to overcome the obstacles you face to become an effective servant leader!


Here are four obstacles you may not even realize you’re overcoming every day on your servant leadership journey:


  1. The cultural mindset that servant leadership is just “rainbows and unicorns.”

    • You know what I mean. People often think that servant leadership is soft, and that it is primarily about making people feel good and happy. However you know that servant leadership is far more than just pleasing folks. You help people achieve their life purpose and their dreams. And you help people get to places that they wouldn’t have normally gotten to on their own. To do this, you stretch people to levels that are uncomfortable. There is nothing “rainbows and unicorns” about that. There is also nothing “soft” about setting new paradigms of ethical competition and ensuring good people and organizations secure significant market share. Yet, despite your consistent hard work and the results you achieve, you know you’re in the minority in your leadership style. Acknowledge Give yourself credit for having the courage to take the road less travelled. And then extend your gratitude to Jesus for lighting the way for you.
  2. The nagging feeling that servant leaders are “born” – not developed.

    • In your life, you’ve met leaders who radiate peace and calm. Servant leadership seems to have been baked into their DNA. Let me tell you — I’ve coached leaders who seemed to have been built for servant leadership and I’ve coached leaders who had to work at it a bit more. But, the only difference between the two lies in the amount of “un-learning” they had to do of traditional “top-down” leadership education. So here’s the bottom line: we’re all born sinful human beings who first and foremost think about ourselves. We all have to be intentional about shifting our mindsets to think about others first. And every day, you do that work. You fight the nagging feeling that maybe you’re “just not cut out for” servant leadership and you keep at it, training yourself to flip conventional leadership wisdom (and human nature) on its head, humble yourself, and serve. You get about the study of servant leadership and you hold yourself accountable to the practices of service. Acknowledge this work. Claim it. And then humbly give thanks for it.
  3. The fear that servant leaders get taken advantage of in the workplace.

    • Every day, you fight the urge to have all the answers. You fight the fear that if you don’t have the answers, people won’t listen to you and will try to run you over. You know, intellectually, that the opposite is true; that people have a tendency to tune out leaders who think they know it all. You understand on a cognitive level that people respect leaders who are humble, transparent, listen first, and are always looking to improve. Yet…that fear creeps in, and it can be hard to resist the “strong-arm” leadership approach so common among your peers. But you do You pause, listen, and give other people room to contribute their expertise. Give yourself credit for the pausing and listening. You’ve developed those skills amid significant pressure to do otherwise. Give thanks to God for teaching you how to give yourself grace in the moments when it’s hardest to do so.
  4. The lack of camaraderie, since servant leadership simply isn’t talked about much in our world today, particularly outside of churches and non-profit organizations.

    • Last I checked people are people. We all respond better when we’re served, instead of coerced. We all like to work for someone who cares for us as people, not just as hands and feet to get the work done. Plus, there are numerous studies that illustrate companies embodying a culture of servant leadership are much more profitable than companies that don’t. Servant leadership is good business practice.


Yet, servant leadership is still an untapped advantage for companies, organizations and teams. This means, unfortunately, that the resources to support your leadership style are relatively limited. Yet, you persevere. You find the sources that can sustain you and guide you, and you keep at it. Give yourself credit for your perseverance. And remember – you’re never truly alone.

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20


I would love to hear some of the other challenges you’ve experienced in your servant leadership journey. Let’s work together to overcome them and continue to accelerate the multiplication of servant leaders in our world.