HR Management & Compliance, Talent

5 Real-Life Brands that Embody Servant Leadership

Servant leaders have continued to change their employees’ lives, their industries, and the world for decades. Here are five examples of real-life brands that embody servant leadership.


Starbucks describes its organizational culture as “a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity.” In addition, it always puts its employees first and encourages everyone to grow into leadership roles within the company.
At Starbucks, employees are encouraged to build strong rapport and relationships with one another and collaborate and communicate openly. And employees are empowered to ask questions and reach out to their superiors. Ultimately, Starbucks holds the view that “how you treat your people is how they’ll treat your customers.”1

Southwest Airlines

Colleen Barrett (President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines) stated, “Our entire philosophy of leadership is quite simple: treat your people right, and good things will happen.” She posits that Southwest Airlines has created policies, procedures, rules, and guidelines but ultimately empowers its employees to use their own common sense and good judgment when needed. It trusts its employees to do the right thing when necessary and doesn’t reprimand them for it.
For example, if a stranded customer needs a hotel room, staff are empowered to help him or her if they can. And when dealing with the public, employees are encouraged to come up with the best solutions and approaches that make sense for any given situation.2

Synovus Financial

Ever since 1888, Synovus Financial has vowed to offer better banking solutions for its own employees. Its leadership team follows the principle that people who are loved, respected, and prepared perform better. And its numbers prove the effectiveness of its servant leadership culture. It was named Fortune’s number one “Best Place to Work in America” in 1999 and is still a reputable organization today, 130 after its founding.2

Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

This company’s leadership focuses on its franchisees’ success, and it continually listens to their input and concerns. It also offers coaching and development programs to ensure success. And it holds itself accountable and values humility.
Around 95% of its franchisees are satisfied working there and would recommend the brand to others. In recent years, profits have skyrocketed, and its shareholders have also seen a lot of benefits.2 & 3

The Container Store

This brand has continued to commit itself to the idea of “conscious capitalism” over the years, as well as servant leadership. Its CEO, Melissa Reiff, personally wrote a guiding principle for the organization titled “Communication IS Leadership,” where leaders are encouraged to participate in “daily execution of practicing consistent, reliable, predictable, effective, thoughtful, compassionate, and yes, even courteous communication.”3
Ultimately, the brands listed above empower their employees, believe in honest and open communication with all stakeholders (both internal and external), and have emotionally intelligent and effective leaders.

  1. Penn State. Starbucks and Servant Leadership. Accessed 4/6/2018.
  2. Chief Learning Officer. Servant Leadership in Action. Accessed 4/6/2018.
  3. The World’s 10 Top CEOs (They Lead in a Totally Unique Way). Accessed 4/6/2018.

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