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How Servant Leaders Do It by Dr. Kathleen Patterson

Christian Leadership Alliance

By Dr. Kathleen Patterson ~

Servant leaders demonstrate excellence in their lives, inspire it in their followers and unleash it in organizations they serve. Here is how servant leaders do it:

Begin with love.

Servant leaders love others. In fact, this is the defining element of servant leaders — they lead with love. As 1 Corinthians 12 is ending, Paul reminds us to eagerly desire the greater gifts and that he will shows us the more excellent way, leading us into the “love” chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. Visualize the leader who leads with love, who is patient, kind, does not boast, is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. We all would consider this leader one of excellence!

Set the example.

You cannot expect excellence from others if you yourself are not setting the pace with excellence. For example, you can’t ask followers to be on time with projects and then fail to be on time with your own projects. You as the leader set the pace for excellence. Followers will emulate the example you set! As the leader you create expectations through how you lead.

Do the right things.

If we truly love our followers then we cannot help but treat them well. We will do right by them. Doing the right thing is not the easy thing, often the right thing is the complicated, messy and even hard to do thing, but we do the right thing nonetheless.

Create the right mindset.

You create the culture that breeds excellence, the mindset that “this is how we do things around here.” The culture that is set can often induce the type of followers (and leaders) we desire. When we set a high bar, an interesting thing happens; people will desire to reach it. They can, and they will!

Allow for failure.

Are we really saying that failure and excellence work together? Well yes, they actually do. If you as the leader allow for failure, the stage is set for innovation and creativity. If you foster the non-punitive aspects of the workplace, you would be surprised how many people are willing to try new things, to create and innovate to move the organization toward that place of excellence.

Do their best.

Leaders who strive for excellence seek to do their best. Little things matter here, or at least they may seem little. However, things like keeping your word, following through on commitments and keeping strong for the long haul are really the big things. We are not talking perfection here; we are talking a real commitment to being the best one can be by showing up, keeping it real and truly serving others with the greatness they deserve.

As servant leaders who represent Christ, we must get this leadership thing right. Let it not be us who falter. Let it not be us who fail or fall into moral collapse or corruption. Rather, let us be the very ones who walk with integrity, who love our followers, who do the right things and who create the cultures that are honoring and honorable. Let’s be leaders who serve well, the leaders of excellence.

Phil. 4:8 tells us to keep our minds on the excellent things. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” We are to be in the frame of mind that seeks out the excellent. From a practical perspective, this is not always easy for us as leaders. But what if as servant leaders we began to see our followers through this lens and sought to see the lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things in them? It would forever change the way we lead.


Dr. Kathleen Patterson is a professor at Regent University, where she has served for 16 years. She is noted as an expert on servant leadership both domestically and internationally.

Servant leaders have a heart to give and the humility to receive. If that’s you, then check out Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes Mentoring Network. Here is where you can be a mentor, find a mentor, or experience both! Learn more HERE.

The Outcomes Mentoring Network


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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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