Jesus Leadership Style: Ten Perspectives for Christian Leaders

Jesus Leaderhip Role Model - Servant leadership

Jesus Leadership Role Model: Servanthood

The Challenge of Jesus’ Leadership Style

As with most things, Jesus turned leadership upside down. He taught the disciples that in the Kingdom they were not to lead people as those in the world did; they were to be radically different.

The leadership style that Jesus taught and modelled was neither about command and control, nor status and power. He did not teach techniques, but grew character — a character centered on a Christ-like servant heart. He modelled servanthood and challenged his disciples to follow that example — to be like him. From the Kingdom perspective, this makes leadership modelled on Jesus and centered on his indwelling character superior to all secular leadership styles.

It shall not be so among you …

Where do Christians learn about leading people? For the most part, Christian colleges teach very little to Christian leaders about how to lead people. This forces us to fall back on information from outside the Kingdom and to apply secular leadership styles not Jesus’ leadership style. “Business gurus”, with worldly outlooks, have developed these styles with the aim of maximising the benefit gained from the “human resource”. Our role models become men and women of power and status in the world.

Jesus pointed the disciples to leaders in the world and told them, “It shall not be so among you” (Matthew 20:26). So, from where do we draw our attitudes and leadership practices; from the world or from the Kingdom? “It shall not be so among you…”.

The greatest among you …

The world’s conception is that those who lead are in some way better than the people whom they lead. They gain status because they exercise power over others to achieve their goals. All of which leads to rewards, benefits and preferential treatment. This does not impress Jesus at all. He took the Scribes and Pharisees to task for such behaviour (Matthew 23:1-11), showing that behaviour reflects the nature of the heart (Luke 6:43-45).

Jesus leadership style is diametrically opposed to that of the world. He declared that in the Kingdom, greatness belongs to the servant and that distinction grows from child-like humility (Matthew 18:4). He taught that leaders were to serve others, not to be served by them.

That you also should do just as I have done to you …

Jesus heart was a servant heart (Philippians 2:5-11), from which his behaviour flowed. This heart led him to act for the benefit and growth of others. This he demonstrated when he confronted the disciples through the visual parable of the foot washing. He challenged the disciples to follow his example (John 13:12-17), a challenge for leaders that echoes down through the centuries to us today.

The lesson? Christian leaders must centre their characters on a Christ-like servant heart, not serving themselves with the benefits of position, power and status, emulating leaders in the world. On the contrary, Jesus calls us, as his leaders, to grow a servant heart. He calls us to follow his example with humility, serving those whom we lead; enabling them to achieve the purpose to which God calls them is our goal. Why? Because in the context of the Kingdom of God, they are not our tools but together, we collaboratively serve God and His purposes. This is Jesus’ leadership style.

The wisdom of this world is folly ….

Jesus leadership style, because it is both the way of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:4)and the essence of the character of Christ (Matthew 20:28), matches nothing in the world. It is radically different to all natural cultures in all countries and all organisations. It is not the way of the world, whose wisdom is folly in the eyes of God (1 Corinthians 3:19). It is the way of Christ and we must follow that way, however divergent it may seem from all we know or think or have learned.

Living Out Jesus Leadership Style

What might such a Christ-centred, servant hearted leadership look like? Briefly, we will summarise ten perspectives on leadership, which will help you to daily live out a Christ-centred leadership, modelled on Jesus leadership style.

Nurture a Christ-like servant-hearted character

Jesus had a sacrificial servant heart that was focused on the needs of others. Ask yourself “How can I live out Christ’s servant hearted character,  putting first concern for those whom I lead?”

Focus on others

Serve others so they can grow and be effective in God’s service. Ask yourself “What else can I do to enable each person I lead to achieve his or her full potential?”

Take responsibility for understanding

Effective communication is essential. So take responsibility and ask yourself “What can I do to ensure that others have understood me and that I have understood them?”

Consider the individual

Make cooperation more effective by developing the best relationships you can with those you lead. Ask yourself “How can I improve how we work together by adjusting how I interact with each person?”

Nurture the character

Encourage others to live out Christ-like values. Ask yourself “How can I affirm those who are honest and truthful and how can I better reflect Christ’s love by treating everyone with honesty and dignity?”

Model the way

Like it or not, you are a role model to those whom you lead and actions speak louder than words. Ask yourself “How can I make my values to be more Christ-like and live them out in front of those whom I lead?”

Inspire a shared vision

A shared vision of purpose and outcome, which is owned by all, is the key to achieving the goal. Ask yourself “How can I engage my team to build a shared vision that encourages greater levels of cooperation?”

Challenge the process

It is always possible to be more effective, making it easier to achieve the desired outcomes. Ask yourself “How can I encourage my team to continually find better ways of doing things?”

Enable others to achieve

Our goal is to enable others to achieve. Ask yourself “How can I better equip and empower those whom I lead to more easily reach fulfill our shared vision?”

Encourage the heart

Knowing that one is valued is an important encouragement for everyone. Ask yourself “How can I publicly and genuinely recognise the value of individuals and their achievements?”

Growing the Servant Heart

You have just tasted some of what it means to grow a servant heart as a leader and live out Jesus leadership style.
Growing the Servant Heart is a leadership development curriculum designed to help you do just that. Rooted in the Bible, and practical experience, it seeks to draw out and apply the leadership principles taught and modelled by Jesus. In other words, living out Jesus’ leadership style as you lead others in real situations each day.

Growing the Servant Heart is available as an on-line programme which is accessible free of charge. This includes some 14 hours of video tutorial plus exercises to reinforce learning. It can also be delivered in classroom style modules tailored to your organisation’s needs and capacity.

If you want to develop your organisation’s leadership skills, you can learn more about Growing the Servant Heart here.

You can enquire about Growing the Servant Heart by emailing: or calling us on +44 (0)1543 878656.

Image (modified): matt Brierly, Creative Commons License