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Servant Leadership Style

Overview of Servant Leadership Style

The servant leadership style was developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970


Leaders fostering the servant style of leadership recognize and acknowledge that the strength of an organization is within its people, thus, they will devote themselves to fulfilling the needs, to the extent possible, of their employees. In return, employees will devote their efforts in ensuring that the leader's goals, which should be linked to the organizational ones, are achieved as efficiently as possible. The leader using the servant style will leverage the power or empowering his or her employees. As stated by Robert Greenleaf, to be labelled as a servant leader you should positively answer the following questions: "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

What does a Servant Leader look like?

Generally, the servant leaders are humble in nature and will cherish every opportunity to build a sense of unity. You can recognize them as they are the ones that will take the time to coach and mentor you, they will let his or her subordinates express their opinions, actually, they will encourage them to do so! Their every actions or decisions will be guided by their strict sense of ethics, making them radiate with thrust.


Some might see the servant leaders in a negative light, as the underlying tone is one that implies a degree of reversed roles! Where, the employee is directing the leader's behaviours. However, this idea is a miss-conception of the very nature of the servant leadership style. As the nature of a servant leader is defined as being one that focuses on providing the "tools" for one to thrive within his or her organizational as well as personal life. Semantically though, one might be tempted to contrast it with an autocratic leader and make that argument that the term "servant leader" projects an image of a submissive or a docile leader.

On a similar level, both the transformational leadership style and the servant style are more of a leadership philosophy, than they are a leadership theory. In the sense that servant leaders are seeking to find the best decision to make for them, as well as for others, they are in quest of the truth, sort of speak!


The term "servant leadership" or "servant leader" isn't plagued with a lot notoriety, not to say that there isn't any. However, its concepts as well as its virtues are being spread within the leadership community with swiftness. Many scholars are continuing to develop and expand on the concepts. Ken Blanchard, one of the authors of the Situational Leadership Theory, believed that Servant style is the basis of effective leadership. Even, Dr. Stephen Covey, an internationally respected leadership authority, believed that leaders using the Servant Leadership Style are essentially opening new porthole to Human Motivation.

However, being a servant leader requires, in my opinion, a slower paced organization, where one as time to value and appreciate human interactions! Thus, and in addition to better understand the concepts of servant leadership one will also need to understand how to implement its virtues within our face paced organizational context!

Want to expand on the discussion?

We encourage you to expand on the discussion, add to the critique or even share your vision with regards to the future applications of the theory.

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