Servant leadership and power


Servant leadership
systematic theology
Pentecostal-charismatic theology
Robert K. Greenleaf
virtue ethics

How to Cite

Tangen, K. I. (2019). Servant leadership and power: An introductory theological analysis. Scandinavian Journal for Leadership and Theology, 6.


This is an explorative study of the relationship between power and servant leadership from a theological perspective. It is argued that Robert K. Greenleaf, Tom Marshall and Yvonne Bradley have provided useful theoretical perspectives on this relationship that may be used to generate important theological research questions. The nature of legitimate power is understood differently based on the underlying anthropology and worldview promoted by these theorists. For Greenleaf, servant leadership is synonymous with legitimate power. His theory of servant leadership is shaped by a religiously indeterminate moral vision of the world and includes a number of moral virtues. Bradley rejects Greenleaf’s model based on a conception of Christian Realism. For Marshall, legitimate power is identical with the character and virtues of servant leadership as this is revealed in Christ. For both Greenleaf and Marshall, the preferred mode of power is persuasion and moral modeling, yet under certain circumstances use of coercive power may be applied according to certain criteria. The study argues that the perspective of virtue ethics and phronetic analyses are useful to advance our understanding of both servant leadership and the dilemmas of power. Yet, such an approach also requires a systematical theological horizon that is sketched out by asking questions from the perspectives of Trinitarian theology, Christology and Eschatology.


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