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Servant Leadership: Definition, Benefits, and Examples



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Servant leadership is a style of management that emphasizes putting the needs of others first. It is based on the idea that leaders should serve their team and followers, rather than commanding them or dictating what they should do.

Servant leaders strive to build positive relationships with those around them, and they believe that by doing so, everyone will be better off. In this article, we will discuss the definition of servant leadership, the benefits it can provide, and some famous examples from history.

Servant Leadership Introduction

What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is when the leader puts their team or organization first. They try to help and empower them. The focus of servant leadership is on making people grow and develop, instead of just achieving certain goals.

Servant leaders are characterized by their humility, empathy, and focus on the well-being of others. They are often seen as facilitators and coaches, rather than traditional bosses or managers. The servant leader’s goal is to help the team or organization they are a part of achieving its full potential. They also work to create a positive and supportive work environment.

Brief summary of the origins of servant leadership

The concept of servant leadership was first introduced by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader.” Greenleaf was inspired by a passage from the book “Journey to the East” by Hermann Hesse, in which a servant named Leo becomes the leader of a group of pilgrims on a journey. Greenleaf saw the servant leader as someone who is able to inspire and guide others while also being a humble servant to their needs.

Greenleaf’s ideas about servant leadership were improved and made more popular by other people who wrote about them, including Ken Blanchard, Peter Senge, and James Autry. Nowadays, the idea of servant leadership is widely accepted in both corporate and nonprofit organizations as an alternative to conventional, hierarchical styles of leading.

Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

Favorite quote:

“Create Dangerously.” And, as I ponder the fusing of servant and leader, it seems a dangerous creation: dangerous for the natural servant to become a leader, dangerous for the leader to be servant first, and dangerous for a follower to insist on being led by a servant.”

AllNewBusiness Rating: 4.4/5
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5

Servant Leadership- A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness book cover
Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness
Servant Leadership- A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness book cover

AllNewBusiness Rating: 4.4/5

Amazon Rating: 4.1/5

The characteristics of a servant leader


Servant leaders know how their team members feel. They can see things from their point of view. They are good at listening to people and making them feel comfortable. This empathy allows them to create a positive and supportive work environment and to better understand the needs of their team.


Servant leaders are people who work for the good of others. They do not try to get power or recognition for themselves. They would rather help their team or organization succeed than get personal awards. This makes them easy to talk to and open to hearing new ideas.

Focus on others

Servant leaders put their team and organization first. They focus on helping others succeed and become their best selves. This helps them work together to create a supportive work environment.

Vision and strategy

Servant leaders are able to develop and communicate a clear vision and strategy for the organization. They are able to inspire and motivate others to work towards a common goal. This vision and strategy allow them to effectively guide and lead their team.

Ethics and values

Servant leaders are people who lead by example and have strong ethics. This means they are honest, truthful, and just in their decisions and how they treat others. People trust and respect servant leaders because of their commitment to these values.

The benefits of the servant leadership style

Improved team morale and performance

Servant leaders prioritize the well-being and development of their team, which can lead to improved morale and increased motivation. When team members feel supported and valued, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. This can result in better performance and productivity.

Greater employee satisfaction and retention

Servant leaders make work more positive and supportive. This can lead to people being happier with their job and less likely to leave. Employees who feel that their needs are being met and that they have opportunities to grow within the company are more likely to stay.

Stronger organizational culture

Servant leadership helps people work together. This makes the organization strong and positive. People in the organization help and respect each other. This leads to new ideas, and better communication and problem-solving.

Increased innovation and creativity

This type of leadership includes people who help their team come up with new ideas and solutions. They also create an environment where people can be creative and try new things. This can lead to more creativity and the development of new products, services, or processes.

Examples of servant leadership in action

servant leader examples: The Dalai Lama, Jack Welch, Abe Lincoln, Susan Wojcicki

1: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is often cited as an example of a servant leader due to his commitment to the well-being and development of his team and his country. As President of the United States during the Civil War, Lincoln worked tirelessly to unify the nation and end slavery. He was known for his strong sense of empathy and for his ability to inspire and motivate others.

2: Susan Wojcicki

Susan Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube and is known for her servant leadership style. She has a reputation for being approachable and for empowering her team to take risks and come up with new ideas. Wojcicki is also committed to diversity and inclusion and has worked to create a more inclusive culture at YouTube.

3: Jack Welch

Jack Welch is a former CEO of General Electric who is known for his servant leadership style. He was known for his focus on developing and empowering his team and for creating a culture of collaboration and innovation. Welch also had a strong commitment to ethical leadership and to building trust with his team and stakeholders.

4: The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, is often cited as an example of a servant leader due to his commitment to serving others and to promoting peace and compassion. The Dalai Lama is known for his humility and his ability to inspire and guide others through his words and actions.

Tips for becoming a servant leader

Practice empathy and active listening

To become a servant leader, it is important to be able to understand and feel the emotions and perspectives of others. This can be done through active listening. Active listening means fully engaging with and paying attention to what others are saying. You can also ask open-ended questions and seek to understand their needs and concerns.

Seek out opportunities to serve others

A servant leader is a person who helps others and makes a positive difference. To become a servant leader, look for chances to help others, like volunteering in your neighborhood or assisting a friend at work.

Focus on the development of your team

Servant leaders prioritize the development and growth of their team. If you want to be a servant leader, it is important to help your team members learn and grow. Provide them with the support and resources they need so that they can succeed. This can include providing training and coaching, setting clear goals and expectations, and recognizing and celebrating the achievements of your team.

Related: 12 Characteristics of Successful Leaders

Lead by example

A servant leader is a person who leads by example and shows the behaviors and values that they want their team to have. To become a servant leader, it is important to show humility, honesty, and that you are hardworking. You should also always try to do what is right, even when it is not easy. When you lead by example, you can encourage your team to follow your lead and adopt a servant leadership mindset.

Other types of leadership

There are many different types of leadership styles and approaches, and the most effective style for a given situation will depend on the specific needs and goals of the team or organization. Here are a few examples of other common types of leadership styles:

Autocratic leadership:

Autocratic leaders make decisions on their own and expect their team to follow their orders without question. This style is more directive and can be effective in situations where quick and decisive action is needed. However, it can also lead to a lack of creativity and innovation and can create a negative work culture.

Laissez-faire leadership:

Laissez-faire leaders give their teams a lot of freedom and autonomy and do not micromanage or provide much direction. This style can be effective in situations where team members are highly skilled and self-motivated. However, it can also lead to a lack of structure and direction and can be less effective in situations where clear goals and expectations are needed.

Transformational leadership:

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams to achieve their full potential and to pursue a shared vision or goal. This style involves building a strong connection with team members and empowering them to take ownership of their work. Transformational leaders often create a positive and inclusive work culture and can be effective in driving innovation and change.

Charismatic leadership:

Charismatic leaders often have a strong vision and are able to communicate their ideas in a way that inspires and excites others. They are also able to build strong relationships with their team and stakeholders and can be effective in driving change and innovation. However, charismatic leadership can also be risky if the leader becomes more focused on their own ego or goals, rather than the well-being of their team or organization.

Servant leadership wrap up

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy that emphasizes the growth and development of people, rather than just achieving specific goals or objectives. Servant leaders are characterized by their empathy, humility, focus on others, vision and strategy, and ethics and values.

Some examples of servant leaders include Abraham Lincoln, Susan Wojcicki, Jack Welch, and the Dalai Lama. To become a servant leader, it is important to practice empathy and active listening, seek out opportunities to serve others, focus on the development of your team, and lead by example.

We encourage you to consider adopting a servant leadership style in your own lives and organizations. Then you can inspire and motivate your team to achieve their full potential and make a positive impact.

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