Everyone on Samit's team knows that he's "there for them."He checks in with them often to see how they are, and hehelps them develop the skills they need to advance theircareers, even if this means that they may move on.Samit also makes an effort to see situations from others' perspectives. He makes decisions withthe team's best interests in mind, and ensures that everyone has the resources and knowledgethey need to meet their objectives.As a result of this, his team is one of the most successful in the department, with low staffturnover and high engagement.Samit is an example of a "servant leader." In this article, we'll explore what servant leadership is,and the advantages it can bring you as a leader. We'll also look at situations where it isn'tappropriate.What is Servant Leadership?Robert K. Greenleaf first coined the phrase "servant leadership" in his 1970 essay, "The Servantas a Leader." However, it's an approach that people have used for centuries.As a servant leader, you're a "servant first" – you focus on the needs of others, especially teammembers, before you consider your own. You acknowledge other people's perspectives, givethem the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisionswhere appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higherengagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and otherstakeholders. It can also lead to increased innovation.Servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique as such. Rather it's a way of behavingthat you adopt over the longer term. It complements democratic leadership styles, and it hassimilarities with Transformational Leadership – which is often the most effective style to usein business situations – and Level 5 Leadership – which is where leaders demonstratehumility in the way they work.However, servant leadership is problematic in hierarchical, autocratic cultures where managersand leaders are expected to make all the decisions. Here, servant leaders may struggle to earnrespect.Important:
Remember that servant leadership is about focusing on other people's needs – not theirfeelings. Don't avoid making unpopular decisions or giving team members negative feedbackwhen this is needed.Also, do not rely on it exclusively – use it alongside styles like Transformational Leadership,where you develop an inspiring vision of the future, motivate people to deliver this, manage itsimplementation, and build an ever-stronger team.How to Become a Servant LeaderAccording to Larry C. Spears, former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for ServantLeadership, these are the 10 most important characteristics of servant leaders:1. Listening.2. Empathy.3. Healing.4. Awareness.5. Persuasion.6. Conceptualization.7. Foresight.8. Stewardship.9. Commitment to the growth of people.10. Building community.From "Character and Servant Leadership: 10 Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders" by Larry C. Spears, published in "TheJournal of Virtues and Leadership," Vol. 1, Issue 1. Reproduced with permission.Once you've decided to prioritize other people's needs over your own in the long term, you canwork on developing your skills in each area. Let's look at how you can do this.1. Listening
You'll serve people better when you make a deep commitment to listening intently to them andunderstanding what they're saying. To improve your listening skills , give people your fullattention, take notice of their body language, avoid interrupting them before they've finishedspeaking, and give feedback on what they say.2. EmpathyServant leaders strive to understand other people's intentions and perspectives. You can bemore empathetic by putting aside your viewpoint temporarily, valuing others' perspectives,and approaching situations with an open mind.3. HealingThis characteristic relates to the emotional health and "wholeness" of people, and involvessupporting them both physically and mentally.First, make sure that your people have the knowledge, support and resources they need todo their jobs effectively, and that they have a healthy workplace . Then take steps to helpthem be happy and engaged in their roles.You could also use a tool such as the Triple Bottom Line to think about how yourorganization can make a positive impact on the people you lead and the customers you serve.4. Self-AwarenessSelf-awareness is the ability to look at yourself, think deeply about your emotions and behavior,and consider how they affect the people around you and align with your values .You can become more self-aware by knowing your strengths and weaknesses , and askingfor other people's feedback on them. Also, learn to manage your emotions , so that youconsider how your actions and behavior might affect others.5. PersuasionServant leaders use persuasion – rather than their authority – to encourage people to takeaction. They also aim to build consensus in groups , so that everyone supports decisions.There are many tools and models that you can use to be more persuasive, without damagingrelationships or taking advantage of others. You should also build your expert power – whenpeople perceive you as an expert, they are more likely to listen to you when you want topersuade or inspire them.
6. ConceptualizationThis characteristic relates to your ability to "dream great dreams," so that you look beyond dayto-day realities to the bigger picture.If you're a senior leader in your company, work through and develop a robust organizationalstrategy . Then, whatever level you're at, create mission and vision statements for yourteam, and make it clear how people's roles tie in with your team's and organization's long-termobjectives. Also, develop long-term focus so that you stay motivated to achieve your moredistant goals, without getting distracted.7. ForesightForesight is when you can predict what's likely to happen in the future by learning from pastexperiences, identifying what's happening now, and understanding the consequences of yourdecisions.You can use tools such as SWOT Analysis and PEST Analysis to think about your currentsituation and environment, while Scenario Analysis helps you understand how the futurecould play out. Use the ORAPAPA checklist when you make a decision, to learn fromexperience and make sure that you've considered all the angles.Also, learn to trust your intuition – if your instinct is telling you that something is wrong, listen toit!8. StewardshipStewardship is about taking responsibility for the actions and performance of your team, andbeing accountable for the role team members play in your organization.Whether you're a formal leader or not, you have a responsibility for the things that happen inyour company. Take time to think about your own values, as well as those of your organization,so that you know what you will and won't stand for. Also, lead by example by demonstratingthe values and behaviors that you want to see in others, and have the confidence to stand upto people when they act in a way that isn't aligned with them.9. Commitment to the Growth of PeopleServant leaders are committed to the personal and professional development of everyone ontheir teams.
To develop your people , make sure that you use Training Needs Assessments tounderstand their developmental needs and give them the skills they need to do their jobseffectively. Also, find out what their personal goals are, and see if you can give them projects oradditional responsibilities that will help them achieve these.10. Building CommunityThe last characteristic is to do with building a sense of community within your organization.You can do this by providing opportunities for people to interact with one another across thecompany. For instance, you could organize social events such as team lunches and barbecues,design your workspace to encourage people to chat informally away from their desks, anddedicate the first few minutes of meetings to non-work-related conversations.Encourage people to take responsibility for their work, and remind them how what they docontributes to the success and overall objectives of the organization.Tip:See our article on Leadership Styles to explore popular leadership approaches and theadvantages and disadvantages of each one.And see this Expert Interview for a valuable discussion on the misconceptions and realities ofservant leadership.Key PointsYou are a servant leader when you focus on the needs of others before you consider your own.It's a longer-term approach to leadership, rather than a technique that you can adopt in specificsituations. Therefore, you can use it with other leadership styles such as TransformationalLeadership.You can become a servant leader by working on these 10 characteristics:1. Listening.2. Empathy.3. Healing.4. Awareness.5. Persuasion.
6. Conceptualization.7. Foresight.8. Stewardship.9. Commitment to the growth of people.10. Building community.Servant leaders are likely to have more engaged employees and enjoy better relationships withteam members and other stakeholders than leaders who don't put the interests of othersbefore their own.This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just oneof many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our freenewsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!Join the Mind Tools Club Sign up for our FREE newsletter Mind Tools Ltd, 1996-2016. All rights reserved. "Mind Tools" is a registered trademark of Mind Tools Ltd.Click here for permissions information.
Robert K. Greenleaf first coined the phrase "servant leadership" in his 1970 essay, "The Servant as a Leader." However, it's an approach that people have used for centuries. As a servant leader, you're a "servant fir