The founder of Servant Leadership, Robert K. Greenleaf, posited that servant leaders are different from traditional leaders because they don’t exercise power from the “top of the pyramid,” but share their power with those they manage and “serve.” They put others’ needs first and help their employees develop and perform at as high a level as possible. And because they do this, servant leaders are essentially more effective leaders.1
According to Greenleaf, servant leaders possess the ten qualities listed below:
- Servant leaders listen intently and are receptive to others’ concerns and work to foster effective communication amongst their group or the people they manage. They seek to understand what motivates and drives their employees and work to illuminate and simplify that information to others.
- Focusing on each employee’s needs, unique spirit (personality), and specialty is important to the servant leader. They won’t reject someone as a person and will assume each employee has good intentions, even if they can’t condone certain behavior or performance.
- A servant leader realizes that his or her employees may have had negative past experiences that they need to navigate through and learn from on an ongoing basis. They also realize that they need to heal from past negative experiences themselves. This quality further emphasizes looking at employees and managers as people who have real emotions.
- Being self-aware and knowing where their ethical and moral biases lie is important to servant leaders. They’re always looking for cues that drive their decision making. They are also always aware of their surroundings and what’s going on around them and are rarely fooled.
- Rather than coerce or force compliance, servant leaders persuade others to comply with their decisions. This allows them to be effective when building consensuses within groups.
- Servant leaders practice thinking beyond the everyday realities that their organizations or departments face, and work to conceptualize bigger issues and long-term goals. Yet, they still know how to tie these “dreams” or idealized conceptualizations to their day-to-day responsibilities.
- The ability to foresee likely consequences of an action or decision made today is a notable quality of servant leaders.
- Always emphasizing the will to serve others, servant leaders work tirelessly to ensure their employees are contributing to the greater good of society.
- Commitment to Growth. Each servant leader is committed to the growth of each of his or her employees, both as workers inside an organization and as individuals. They do everything possible to ensure the growth of each employee.
- Building Community. Servant leaders think of their organizations as large communities, and they strive to build community-minded relationships and strategies across their organizations.
Consider the servant leader concept and the qualities of servant leaders above when designing your next leadership program.
- Center for Servant Leadership. https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership . Last Accessed 1/11/2018.