Seminary Course

John Sullivan made a commitment to International Christian Ministries to develop and teach a seminary-level leadership course at their seminaries in Africa. The syllabus for this 40-hour course is presented, below. Click on the names in the right column to hear personal testimonies of the impact this teaching is having upon the men and women who have taken the course. ATS Kitale

A Return to Servant Leadership Syllabus

A Return to Servant Leadership will introduce you to a unique style of leadership that is modeled on the approach of Him who said He came to serve, not to be served. This upside down leadership style puts the needs of followers above the needs of the leader; promotes teamwork, individual dignity and worth; and results in a synergy of purpose unachievable with the old leadership models.

This course will provide you with a solid foundation of the theory and practice of leadership while contrasting traditional and more modern theories with Jesus' style of servant leadership and its most effective application today. You will be challenged, as a leader in the church of tomorrow to adopt a leadership style that is contrary to the prevailing style yet is one that the Son of Man modeled for us in His ministry on this earth.

INSTRUCTOR: John Sullivan

TEXT: Servant First! Leadership for the New Millennium, John J. Sullivan, Xulon Press (2004)

CLASS CONTEXT: The course will consist of lecture, individual and small group discussion, team presentations, a written exam and a take-home project.

GRADING: Consists of three elements:

· Participation in class discussion/presentations = 20%

· Final exam = 60%

· Take-home project = 20%



How did you learn to be a leader? Most of us learned from watching and working with leaders and imitating their style. Are there sets of variables that distinguish successful leaders from those who are not? This session will review the traditional approaches to studying leadership and why they may or may not work today. Topics include:

  • Defining the three elements of leadership

  • Contrasting leadership with management

  • Leadership as science and art

  • Trait studies: Focus on the leader

  • Behavior studies: Focus on the followers

  • Situational studies: Focus on the situation

ASSIGNMENT: Read Preface and Chapters 1-3. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class.


The contributions to leadership theory through the quality revolution over the past 50 years are often overlooked in leadership training. We will examine the people-centered leadership taught by Deming and others, the geneses of the human relations school of management, and its early influence on the quality pioneers. We will explore the servant as leader approach of Robert Greenleaf, the most widely know modern proponent of servant leadership. Topics include:

  • Deming's principles and functions of leadership
  • The concept of servant as leader
  • Identifying servant leaders
  • Called to leadership: traits and behaviors of servant leaders
  • Unique types of leaders in Christian organization

ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapters 4-8. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class.


We begin our study of Jesus as LEADER by exploring his background, looking for clues as to what molded His leadership style. A common element of successful organizations is a set of guiding principles that direct the strategy, goals, and direction of the organization while providing the foundation for a shared set of organizational beliefs. We will discover that Jesus established a set of guiding principles that are still relevant today. Topics include:

  • Clues to Jesus' genealogy
  • What did Jesus REALLY look like and should we care?
  • Jesus' definition of a servant leader
  • What are guiding principles?
  • Jesus' vision, mission, and values

ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapter 9. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class. Selected presentations on local church/organizational guiding principles.


Another common characteristic of successful organizations is that they plan for the future. In this session, we will discover that Jesus had a very deliberate strategy that played out over the three years of His active ministry. This same strategy may be applied in organizations in the private and public sectors today. Topics include:

  • Preparing for leadership
  • Picking potential leaders
  • Enabling lower level leaders
  • Empowering leaders and followers
  • Deploying the strategy

ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapter 10. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class. Small group discussion and presentations on implementing Jesus' strategy.


Although the original trait theory as a means of selecting future leaders was largely discounted by other later research, a number of more recent studies have concluded that successful leaders do have a set of distinguishable traits. In this session we will examine Jesus' six dominant leadership traits and relate them to leading organizations today. Topics include:

  • Showing compassion
  • Demonstrating humility
  • Remaining impartial
  • Living a life of integrity
  • Building trust by being trustworthy
  • Applying knowledge and experience while developing wisdom

ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapters 11 and 12. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class. Small group discussion and presentations on selected traits.

Chapel service


Jesus' leadership behaviors, i.e., how He acted towards His followers, were highly relational and focused on developing His followers into becoming leaders themselves. In this session we will discuss the ten dominant leadership behaviors of Jesus and examine how they may be applied in modern organizations. Topics include:

  • Obedience to the mission
  • The importance of commitment
  • Overcoming temptation
  • Exercising authority
  • Providing vision
  • Communication imperatives
  • Seven teaching methods
  • Being an effective encourager
  • How to recognize potential leaders and effective followers
  • The importance of reconciliation
  • The necessity of prayer

ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapters 13 and 14. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class. Small group discussion and presentations on selected behaviors.


Once an organization has established a strategic plan and a set of long-range goals, then comes the difficult task of implementation. What tactics did Jesus use to implement His five-phase strategy? As we answer that question we will discover that these same tactics are available to leaders today. Jesus implementation was eloquently simple and straightforward and consisted of five dominant approaches. Topics include:

  • Teaching on three levels
  • Leading by example
  • Effective delegation
  • Removing fear
  • Forgiving mistakes

ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapter 15. Questions for small group discussion will be presented in class.

Day Eight:

ASSIGNMENT: Final Exam. Take-home project will be assigned.

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