All About Servant Leadership

Sunny Samanta

23rd Jul'22
All About Servant Leadership | OpenGrowth

“Tomorrow belongs to the people who empower others to believe in themselves.”

Leadership has become a crucial part of any organization. The success and failure of the company and everyone who is a part of it depend on it. Leaders are headstrong individuals who can motivate and inspire people to follow them. Over time, the world has seen some amazing leaders in different roles such as Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, and Napoleon Bonaparte to name a few. Each of them was different from the other. But were bound by one common trait, i.e., the ability to lead.


Servant Leadership


Types of Leadership

With different leaders, the world has witnessed different ways to lead. It has created what we can say is the type of leadership. And when it comes to the types of leadership, here are some of the most common types followed in an organization. They are:


  • Autocratic Leadership
  • Democratic
  • Laissez-Faire
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Bureaucratic
  • Transactional


However, the subject of this topic is the much lesser known servant leadership. Now, you may wonder - what is servant leadership? Does leadership become a servant? The answer is Yes and No. It is confusing, I know. Hence, let’s dive deeper into servant leadership, starting right from what is servant leadership?


What is Servant Leadership


Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a lesser known, less popular form of leadership where the focus stays on empowering individuals or a group of people to believe in themselves. In traditional forms of leadership, a few of which I mentioned above, the leadership style primarily focuses on the success of the organization. However, instead of working for the success of any organization or cause, the leadership style prioritizes the growth and success of people.

Servant leadership leans on the philosophical front. It works on the idea to foster an environment where everyone in an organization can work and thrive successfully as their authentic self. Growth, well-being, and empowerment of the people become the main objective. Furthermore, it can nurture creative talent in an organization.


Theory of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership theory was developed by Robert K. Greenleaf, who popularized the term in a 1970s essay entitled " The Servant as Leader." He did so after reading the book "Journey to the East." The main character in the book Leo, a servant who disappears from work has influenced Greenleaf to come up with the theory. In the book after Leo's disappearance, the productivity and effectiveness of other workers decline severely. It showed that Leo was in fact a leader all along in the story.

Greenleaf thus developed a belief that servant leadership is effective with its ability to enable workers to work collectively with managers and vice-versa. It creates greater trust and autonomy for workers. Greenleaf worked on and later first tested this theory while he worked as an executive at AT&T. Initially, the responses he received weren't great. But soon it picked traction and it became an effective leadership style over the years.

Soon Greenleaf proposed an "I serve" mentality for servant leadership, basing it on two major premises. The first was "I serve because I am the leader" and the second was "I am the leader because I serve." The first premise focuses on altruism. It is a selfless concern for others. Likewise, the second premise revolved around a person's ambition to become a leader.


Why Servant Leadership

Many people had asked Greenleaf why people should invest in servant leadership. And it’s a fair question today as well where many prefer other mentioned forms of leadership. So, here are some reasons to practice servant leadership.



We all know the value of commitment. Even for an organization to succeed, it requires committed employees and leaders to work hand in glove to bring the desired results. Servant leadership can make employees take commitment more seriously. It can enforce a belief in them to value commitment. And once the employee's value understand the importance of commitment, you can guarantee they will remain committed to anything they become associated


Trust and Accountability

Trust and Accountability are other two critical aspects companies look for in their employees. Servant leadership helps to develop a deep sense of trust and accountability between the employees and management. It happens mostly due to the employees feeling valued in their roles.



Inclusivity in a workplace is essential. It is amongst the primary traits required to build teams who can work together to achieve a goal. Employee inclusivity enhances their involvement and engagement in work. Organizations that have prioritized inclusivity are known to achieve better results than their competitors.

So, these are some of the reasons why you should practice servant leadership or include parts of it in your workplace. Now, another aspect of servant leadership that you must know about is its characteristics.


Characteristics of Servant Leadership

According to Greenleaf, the maximum essential feature to become a servant leader is to prioritize serving rather than leading. Servant leaders are more inquisitive about serving the needs of the employees. They do so by supporting them to grow and develop themselves as dependable individuals. Apart from it, Greenleaf didn’t define much about what can turn a person into an effective servant leader. So, researchers James Sipe and Don Frick studied his work. Later on, they outlined and mentioned seven pillars of servant leadership that essentially aligned with Greenleaf's original theory of servant leadership. They are:


Person of Character

A servant leader is someone who upholds integrity and bases their decisions on morals and values. The person also shows humility, and a desire to serve a higher purpose in the organization.


Puts People First

A servant leader shows concern and care for others while assisting team members in achieving their objectives and developing professionally.


Compassionate Collaborator

To be a strong servant leader, you must consistently collaborate with others to strengthen relationships, promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, and manage workplace conflict.


Skilled Communicator

Communication skills are essential for servant leadership, and you must ensure that you can effectively listen to and speak with your employees, as well as solicit feedback.


Leads With Moral Authority

As a servant leader, it’s important to establish trust and confidence in your workforce by establishing quality standards, accepting, and delegating responsibility and fostering a culture that allows for accountability.


Has Foresight

As a servant leader, you will need to keep an eye on the future and anticipate anything that might impact the organization. You’ll also need to have a strong vision for your organization and be the type of person who can take decisive action when needed.


System Thinkers

Servant leaders need to be comfortable navigating complex environments and able to adapt to change. This type of leadership requires strategic thinking and the ability to effectively lead change in the organization.



So, this is all about how servant leadership came into existence and how it differs from other types of leadership. It also showed how it can work effectively in an organization and ensure more success in it. Besides, servant leadership is excellent to lead an exhausted workforce.

We at OpenGrowth, are committed to keeping you updated with the best content on the latest trendy topics from any major field. Also, both your feedback and suggestions are valuable to us. So, do share them in the comment section below.

A lone wolf by definition, a writer by heart, and a lost star with ambitions to light up the dark both inside and around me, sometimes by immersing myself into books or video games or traveling with a backpack to an uncertain destination believing that life is all about the choices we make and we don't.


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