Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership was first described by Robert K. Greenleaf in the 1970's. He looked at leading in a different fashion than most others which gave him a unique perspective to write a thesis on.

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature." Exert from essay by R. K. Greenleaf.

If it's not clear already this style of leading is very different from the traditional autocratic or bureaucratic theories as servant leading prescribes to a shift of thinking. This shift of thinking takes the superiority off the leader and places greater value on team members. Often this is the chosen leadership style for Christian and Church leadership due to the humility needed by the leader to exercise servant leadership.

Servant Leading Unpacked

  • Servant Leaders focus their efforts on fulfilling the needs of the team or people involved in the organization. This ideal has the result of all the team members having their needs met and therefore being the most productive to achieving the tasks given to them. By doing this the leader/servant brings the best out of his or her team.
  • Servant leaders are nurturing to their team and provide a very pastoral approach to leadership. The ideology perceives that by nurturing and taking an active interest in a holistic development of team members, you will draw the very best out of the people around you.
  • Servant leaders are by definition selfless as they believe their position is there to serve others. They will even lay down their own position to serve their team and see their development. This is really moving away from a traditional domineering model of leadership and makes the leader a lot more vulnerable.
  • Servant leaders do what is right instead of selfish-motivations and self-preservation. This brings a real element of justice and honesty to organizations and teams lead by this leadership style. As a team member when you can trust your leader that they want what's best for you then you'll want to do all you can to help the leader succeed.

Servant Leadership Questions

  1. Do you see yourself as a servant leader? If so, why ?
  2. Do you think servant leadership is a good style to use? There are obviously some great qualities about it, but would you fully commit yourself to this model?
  3. What are the drawbacks to this leadership style?

Often it's best to analyze each style to really know what to take away from it and implement in your own life. We'd love to hear some of your answers to these questions, so please write comments in the box below so we can hear what You think!

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