Everything You Need To Know About Leader Servants

Jennifer Herrity

Updated August 24, 2021

Published March 20, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

Servant leadership is a management style in which you lead by considering the needs of your team before your own. As a servant leader, you help your employees grow and enable them to contribute to the decision-making process of the organization.

Leader servants interact with colleagues to achieve authority, not to attain power. Effective application of the servant leadership philosophy can give followers a sense of purpose, increase creativity and help organizations achieve goals.

In this article, we define what a servant leader is and discuss the benefits of mastering the skills that advance the personal development and performance of your teammates.

What is a servant leader?

A servant leader is someone who focuses on developing team members before thinking of themselves. Servant leadership was first used in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay “The Servant as a Leader.” Servant leaders are the opposite of traditional leadership. Instead of exercising authority and power over employees, servant leaders work to ensure their teams have the skills, resources and enabling environment to succeed. Servant leaders don't impose their opinions and will on others. Rather, they try to understand every stakeholder's perspective and persuade them to support their initiative.

A servant leader tries to merge the collective goals with individual interests. They align the employees' objectives with the company's vision and mission. This style of leadership can create close-knit teams that enjoy exceptional levels of engagement, cooperation and trust. It creates an environment that promotes innovation and teamwork, allowing teams to achieve improved efficiency and performance.

Servant leadership combines several traits of successful leaders. It is democratic, pragmatic and transformational. People who practice servant leadership need organizational cultures that support giving employees a leading role in the business' administration. In places with a rigid managerial structure where only top management makes decisions, servant leaders may find it challenging to make an impact.

If your company has an enabling environment, servant leadership combined with other styles of leading people can create strong teams optimized for achieving goals and results. Because leader servants are committed to developing their staff, they increase job satisfaction and retention. Servant leaders also train their staff so that they can take over leadership positions in the future.

Related: What Does Leadership Mean?

Benefits of servant leadership

Servant leaders invest in the development of their staff, resulting in several benefits for their company. They allow employees to achieve career goals while helping the organization meet its objectives. Here are some benefits of servant leadership:

  • Boosts employee development

  • Promotes staff loyalty

  • Boosts productivity

  • Builds trust

  • Improves the decision-making process

  • Creates future leaders

Boosts employee development

Servant leaders spend resources on employees to help them attain peak performance. They help staff visualize the organization's goals and give them the tools they need to make meaningful contributions to the achievement of company objectives.

Promotes staff loyalty

Servant leaders create a cohesive work atmosphere that allows teams to work as a group toward common goals. They encourage employees to contribute to the decision-making process, creating a strong sense of loyalty among the staff. This combined with the investment in staff development builds a strong bond between the personnel and the organization. Increased loyalty boosts employee performance, retention and helps the company achieve its strategic goals. Loyalty also provides a ready pool of experienced and highly trained employees who can take up leadership positions.

Boosts productivity

Servant leadership can improve productivity because it promotes creativity, innovation and allows employees to take initiative. The process provides flexibility and encourages staff to find novel ways of solving problems they encounter on the job. These factors boost job satisfaction and encourage people to give their best at work.

Builds trust

Servant leaders enrich their company's organizational culture. The conduct of these leaders builds trust and honesty and gives employees a sense that their contributions matter. They build cohesive teams, encouraging individuals to use their skills for the common good.

Improves the decision-making process

Servant leadership ensures that they make every decision in the best interest of the company because it practices collective decision making. This does not mean that top management cannot reject the input of lower-level staff. But it provides them diverse opinions and insights on the best way to achieve organizational goals. That way, it's not one or two people deciding the fate of others in the company.

Creates future leaders

Because servant leaders give their teams leadership opportunities, the practice helps an organization to prepare capable individuals who can take over senior roles. Servant leadership also invests in the professional and personal development of employees. This leads to people who have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the business and how to move the organization towards its objectives.

Related: 15 Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Qualities of a servant leader

Servant leaders incorporate different traits from multiple leadership styles. Here are examples of the qualities of servant leaders:

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Vision

  • Active listening skills

  • Persuasion

  • Growth

  • Persistence

  • Accountability

Emotional intelligence

Servant leaders have highly developed emotional intelligence. They have an in-depth understanding of their people's needs and provide the needed support and resources to help them attain peak performance. Servant leaders strive to create a healthy workplace that improves employees' job satisfaction through people management skills. Emotional intelligence allows these leaders to empathize with employees' needs over theirs, creating trust between the leadership and staff and boosting morale.

Vision

Servant leaders not only serve their people but also have a clear vision of where they want to take the organization. These leaders use diverse management and leadership tools to direct the company's human and capital resources towards organizational goals. They help others see the bigger picture, making it easier for every stakeholder to contribute to the actualization of common objectives.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Active listening skills

A great quality of servant leaders is their ability to listen actively to others' opinions. Rather than command and direct employees, these leaders encourage people to provide feedback and suggestions on how to solve problems and meet targets. Effective communication allows servant leaders to carry everybody along in the decision-making process.

Persuasion

Unlike classic leadership styles that depend on authority for leadership, servant leaders persuade people to support the leaders' decisions. They build strong relationships and trust among team members, making it easier to reach a consensus on important matters. Servant leaders have expert knowledge of their profession, which allows them to persuade others to accept their views.

Growth

Servant leaders prioritize the professional and personal interests of their teams. They ensure employees get the best training, skills and tools to deliver at the highest level. Servant leaders also help their people to merge personal goals with the company's mission. This boosts employee morale and helps the organization accomplish its goals while employees achieve career objectives.

Persistence

While servant leaders are good at persuasion, they are also persistent. They understand that people have conflicting views and interests and it might take time to change their decisions. Servant leaders continue to educate and motivate teams to see the reason behind their thinking to win employees' support.

Accountability

Servant leaders create an enabling environment for teams to thrive, and they hold themselves and others to the highest standards. Leader servants give employees flexibility, but take responsibility for the performance and actions of their teams. This encourages them to invest in their people's capacity to help staff deliver results effectively.

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