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3 Soul Toxins That Derail Servant Leadership

servant leadership

Joe Stowell describes servant leadership as “leading for the benefit of others.”

That captures it well.

Servant leadership is easily understood, but not so easily practiced on a consistent basis.

We all love to be served, right? Like in a restaurant. It’s really obvious when the wait staff is enjoying their job and trying to make your experience a good one. It’s equally obvious when it seems like we are bothering the person waiting on us.

I wonder sometimes how those we serve see us.

The real question is whether or not the waiter loves to serve, or serves because they are paid.

Leadership is the same, and you can always tell the difference.

There are leaders who love to serve, and do it naturally, intentionally and freely. And those who don’t, they may be good and smart leaders, but you can tell the difference.

I know…we all have tough days…but I’m writing about our overall disposition as we lead.

We all desire to consistently be a servant leader, but there are things that than can and do challenge that aspiration.

Embracing servant leadership is not a strategy, it’s an identity. (Crawford Loritts)

Servant leadership isn’t a skill, it describes who we are. We are still expected to make tough decisions, solve problems, cast vision and get the job done, but it’s the way we do it. Servant leadership comes from the heart.

There are soul toxins within us as human beings that even though we want to serve, can derail us from servant leadership at its best.

We can see it even in Jesus’ disciples. Jesus had just set the example of a servant by washing their feet, and then an argument broke out among them about which one was considered to be the greatest. (Luke 22)

What causes this?

3 Examples of Soul Toxins That Derail Our Leadership From a Servant Disposition:


  • I gleaned from a few sources to strengthen my content, including Crawford Lorritt’s great book, “Leadership as an Identity.”
  • I’m not suggesting that any of these “toxins” are the constant driving force of your leadership, but merely examples of toxins that can sneak in and steal away the real you.

1. Insecurity: The Insecure Leader Serves out of Fear and Is Often Tempted to Perform.

The driving question is, What will people think of me?

Insecure leaders possess a fear of being discovered for their most real self, unsure they can measure up to others, which often causes them to “hide” rather than be real.

Insecurity makes us second guess ourselves. It causes us to worry about what others think, and consumes so much mental and emotional energy that there is little left with which to serve others.