Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve the needs of their team or organization.
This approach emphasizes putting the needs of others first, and focuses on creating a positive work environment and developing the skills and abilities of team members.
The servant leader strives to empower and inspire their team, rather than exerting their own power and control. This leadership style can lead to increased motivation, job satisfaction, and commitment among team members.
5 benefits of Servant leadership
- Increased motivation: When employees feel that their needs are being met and that their contributions are valued, they may be more motivated to do their best work.
- Greater collaboration: Servant leaders often focus on building strong team relationships and promoting open communication, which can lead to increased collaboration and teamwork.
- Improved decision-making: By involving team members in the decision-making process and seeking their input, servant leaders can tap into the diverse perspectives and expertise of their team, leading to better decision-making.
- Enhanced creativity: A servant leadership approach that values employee ideas and encourages innovation can foster a more creative and innovative work environment.
- Higher job satisfaction: Employees who feel supported and empowered by their leaders may be more satisfied with their jobs and more likely to stay with the organization.
While servant leadership is generally considered to be a positive and effective leadership style, it may not be the best approach in every situation.
In some cases, a more directive or authoritarian leadership style may be needed to achieve a specific goal or to make a quick decision. Additionally, some people may not respond well to a servant leadership approach.
definition and characteristics of Servant leadership
Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the leader’s primary focus is on the needs and development of their team members. The servant leader works to empower their team, and puts the needs of their team above their own personal interests. This approach is based on the idea that the most effective leaders are those who serve their team and help them grow and develop, rather than those who focus on their own power and status.
Some characteristics are:
- Empathy: Servant leaders strive to understand and connect with their team members on a personal level, and are often skilled at reading social cues and responding appropriately.
- Humility: Servant leaders are typically humble, and put the needs of their team above their own ego or personal ambition.
- Service: Servant leaders are focused on serving the needs of their team and helping them grow and develop.
- Communication: Servant leaders are often strong communicators, and work to create open and transparent lines of communication within their team.
- Listening: Servant leaders are good listeners, and value the input and ideas of their team members.
- Empowerment: Servant leaders empower their team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions, rather than micromanaging them.
- Vision: Servant leaders often have a clear vision for the future of their team or organization, and work to inspire and motivate their team to work towards that vision.
- Ethics: Servant leaders are typically guided by strong ethical values and strive to model integrity and honesty in their leadership.
How can you develop Servant leadership?
Developing servant leadership skills requires a combination of self-awareness, self-discipline, and a willingness to continuously learn and grow. Here are a few steps that can help you develop servant leadership:
- Understand the principles of servant leadership: Read books and articles about the philosophy and practice of servant leadership, so you can gain a deeper understanding of what it is and why it is effective.
- Be self-aware: Reflect on your own leadership style, strengths, and weaknesses. Understand how your actions, behaviors, and decisions impact others.
- Practice empathy: Try to see things from the perspective of your team members and understand their needs, fears, and aspirations.
- Communicate effectively: Be an active listener and make sure that team members feel heard and valued. Communicate your vision, goals, and expectations clearly and consistently.
- Lead by example: Lead by example by being ethical, honest, and transparent. Show your team members that you are committed to serving them, not just leading them.
- Develop your team: Encourage and support the growth and development of your team members. Provide opportunities for learning, mentoring, and professional development.
- Continuously learn: Continuously learn from your own experiences, the experiences of others, and from the feedback you receive.
- Be a servant first: Remember that being a servant leader requires putting the needs of others before your own. Practice humility, and be willing to admit your own mistakes and learn from them.
What are the downsides of servant leadership?
Some potential downsides of servant leadership include:
- Time commitment: Adopting a servant leadership style can be time-consuming, as it often involves building strong relationships with team members and taking a hands-on approach to their development.
- Resistance from team members: Some team members may resist a servant leadership style, especially if they are used to a more traditional top-down approach. It may take time for team members to adjust to a more collaborative and empowering leadership style.
- Potential for conflict: Servant leaders who involve their team in decision-making processes may face challenges when team members have conflicting ideas or priorities. It can be difficult for leaders to navigate these conflicts and find solutions that work for everyone.
- Difficulty with delegation: Servant leaders may find it difficult to let go of control and delegate tasks to team members, especially if they are used to being hands-on.
- Risk of being taken advantage of: Servant leaders who are too focused on meeting the needs of their team may neglect their own needs, and risk being taken advantage of or taken for granted. It is important for servant leaders to maintain appropriate boundaries and ensure that their own needs are being met as well.
Which kinds of companies are most likely to benefit from servant leadership?
It’s important to know that servant leadership can be used in any organization, no matter what it does or how big it is. Some examples of types of companies where servant leadership can be particularly effective include:
Service-based companies: Companies that rely heavily on customer service, such as retail stores, hotels, and restaurants, can benefit from a servant leadership approach. This leadership style emphasizes putting the needs of the customers first, and can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Non-profit organizations: Non-profit organizations often have a mission-driven focus and a commitment to serving others. A servant leadership approach can align well with these values and can help to create a positive and motivated work environment.
Social enterprises: Social enterprises are companies that are committed to making a positive impact on society and the environment. A servant leadership approach can help to align the values of the organization with its mission and can lead to increased employee engagement and motivation.
High-tech companies: Companies that operate in fast-paced, highly innovative industries can benefit from a servant leadership approach. This leadership style can help to create a culture of collaboration and innovation, and can lead to increased productivity and employee satisfaction.
Small and Medium Enterprises: Servant leadership can be effective in small and medium-sized companies as it allows for more flexibility and personalization of leadership styles. This approach can help to create a positive work environment, increase employee satisfaction and productivity, and foster a sense of community within the organization.
“The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership” by James C. Hunter
“The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance” by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges
“The Servant Leader Within: A Transformative Path” by Kent M. Keith
“Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results” by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell