What is the Servant Leadership Style?
The servant leadership style is a leader whose natural desire is to serve first. Then conscious choice brings them to aspire to lead. A leader that uses the servant leadership style is compassionate, sees the bigger picture, and has a desire to nurture others. This type of leader is one of the more contemporary leadership styles. It has a relatively young history but the style has resonated with many authors, speakers, and corporate leaders. Organizations can also be considered servant leaders. These are the teams or companies that you’ll hear referred to as “socially responsible companies”.
“a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world”Center for Servant Leadership
Servant leadership is a classic concept but the term was popularized in 1970 when Robert K. Greenleaf published his well-known essay, “The Servant as Leader.” In the paper, Greenleaf said of leadership, “The servant-leader is servant first.”
Greenleaf also believed that teams or organizations — not just individuals — could also be servant leaders. His follow-up essay, “The Institution as Servant,” reinforced that view.
The key tenets of servant leadership include:
- Employees first – Focuses on satisfying the highest-priority needs of the team and have a strong sense of caring and responsibility for individuals
- Employees grow and improve performance – A priority is the personal and professional development team members
- The organization makes a positive contribution to society – The team or company improves its community or region while not losing focus on the bottom line
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Servant Leadership
A servant leader is not a fit in every organization or situation, but the style continues to grow in stature. Servant leadership has become quite popular in recent years, attracting more fans among organizational leaders and authors. This style is building a track record of success amongst experienced leaders who want to focus on improving their people, organization, and their community.
How does this leadership style compare with your own style? How does it compare to your manager? Whether you are a servant leader, another style, or a combination of styles, below are some advantages and disadvantages to the servant leadership style to consider:
- Often leads to social consciousness within the organization
- Empathy for teams often encourages similar treatment of the organization’s customers and vendors
- Can help create employee trust and advocacy
- Creates a positive corporate culture
- It requires time to achieve positive results
- Perceived to have a low focus on results
Yes, there are pros and cons to each of the leadership styles, but understanding the balance is key to being a successful leader. Still unsure about your own style? To learn more about your style as a leader or an aspiring leader, take our short quiz that will give you a sense of your own style. To start the 2-minute leadership style quiz, click here.
Famous Leaders with the Servant Leadership Style
Below are a few of the many leaders that have displayed the servant leadership style.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Albert Schweitzer, philosopher and physician.
- Tenzin Gyatso, The Dalai Lama
RECAP: Servant Leadership Style
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Want to know more about other leadership styles? Select one of these links for more comprehensive information about each style: Situational Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Supportive Leadership | Transactional Leadership | Laissez-fair Leadership | Transformational Leadership | Charismatic Leadership | Autocratic Leadership