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Everything you need to know about servant leadership

Last update: January 2024

Servant Leadership 101

Servant leadership is a concept that has been gaining more traction in the business world due to its emphasis on creating strong relationships between leaders and their teams.

The concept has existed for centuries, although Robert K. Greenleaf first formalized it in his 1970 essay: “The Servant as Leader”. This essay sparked a revolution and marked the beginning of a new era for leadership – one based on service, kindness, and trust. The idea behind servant leadership is to lead with humility and selflessness rather than domination or power. By putting the needs of others before their own, servant leaders strive to create a productive work environment while ensuring their team members reach their highest potential.

Get a complete view of servant leadership:

  1. The pros of Servant Leadership
  2. The cons of Servant Leadership
  3. How to implement Servant Leadership: 9 Steps
  4. Three Things to remember about Servant Leadership

1. The pros of Servant Leadership

Servant leaders act not only as supervisors but also as facilitators who motivate and inspire their subordinates to achieve excellence. Servant leadership’s focus on fostering collaboration, building trust, and developing team members makes it an attractive way for organizations to cultivate high-performing teams.

When it comes to the pros of servant leadership, several unique benefits come with this approach:

Positive Atmosphere

Employees who work under a leader who is focused on helping them to be better professionals are more likely to be productive and engaged with their work. The supportive environment these types of leaders foster can also lead to increased creativity among team members and improved communication, which helps everyone understand each other better.

Increased Motivation

Another benefit of servant leadership is that employees working under these leaders often become more motivated since they have someone at the top whom they respect and feel inspired by.

Better Decisions

Servant Leadership encourages team members to think independently while remaining connected to make decisions collaboratively. This results in smarter solutions arriving faster since everybody’s thoughts and ideas can be considered without anyone feeling overwhelmed or left out.

Greater Job Satisfaction

Servant leaders create an environment where team members are valued and respected, which can lead to greater job satisfaction. This can result in lower turnover rates and more loyalty to the organization.

Improved Communication

Servant leaders focus on listening and empathizing with team members, which can lead to improved communication and greater understanding among team members. This can make it easier to resolve conflicts and work together effectively.

Greater Ethical Standards

Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their employees, customers, and other stakeholders, rather than just focusing on profits or other short-term goals. This can lead to a more ethical and socially responsible organization that is better able to meet the needs of its stakeholders over the long term.

Stronger Teamwork

Servant leaders encourage collaboration and teamwork, leading to stronger relationships and a more cohesive team. This can result in improved efficiency and greater productivity.


Servant leaders empower their team members to take on leadership roles and make decisions, which can lead to greater ownership and accountability among team members. This can result in greater creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills.

In summary, servant leadership brings many benefits to an organization, including a positive atmosphere, increased motivation, better decision-making, greater job satisfaction, improved communication, greater ethical standards, stronger teamwork, and empowerment. These factors can ultimately lead to a more productive, engaged, and successful organization.

2. The cons of Servant Leadership

Despite all its advantages, there are some drawbacks to servant leadership as well. These include:

Lack of Results Focus

These types of leaders tend to be less demanding regarding results because they want to ensure their teams are happy and content. As a result, there might be times when performance goals are unmet or individuals who could have accomplished more don’t reach their true potential because of this leniency.

Difficulty Connecting with Leaders

Some people may find it challenging to connect with such a leader if they’re used to traditional methods of management which rely on intimidation rather than mutual respect.

Potential for Passivity

Servant leaders are known for being humble, compassionate, and selfless, which can sometimes lead to passivity. They may avoid taking a firm stance or making difficult decisions, making it hard for the organization to move forward decisively.

Limited Control

Servant leaders tend to give their team members more autonomy and decision-making power, which can lead to a lack of control over the overall direction of the organization. This can make it challenging to achieve a shared vision or to implement large-scale changes.

Difficulty in Scaling

Servant leadership works best in small teams or organizations where the leader can easily connect with each team member. It can be difficult to scale this approach to larger organizations where the leader may not have the same level of direct contact with each employee.

Resistance to Change

Servant leadership is a relatively new concept, and not all employees or organizations may be open to this new way of leading. There may be resistance to change among employees who are used to a more traditional, hierarchical leadership style.

Risk of Being Taken Advantage Of

Servant leaders put the needs of their team members above their own, which can sometimes lead to them being taken advantage of by their team members. They may be more likely to put up with poor performance or bad behavior from team members, which can ultimately harm the organization.

3. How to implement Servant Leadership: 9 Steps

Fortunately, organizations can take steps towards implementing servant leadership successfully to avoid its drawbacks while getting the most out of its benefits. Here are some tips for successful implementation:

1. Evaluate Existing Practices

Start by evaluating existing managerial practices and identify any areas where improvement needs to take place for servant leadership principles to thrive.

2. Provide Training & Recognition Programs

Invest in providing staff with training in areas such as communication and collaboration so they’re better equipped when dealing with each other or having open discussions about various topics related to employee satisfaction. Additionally, provide rewards or recognition programs that recognize those who go above and beyond expectations set by managers and peers alike.

3. Encourage Open Dialogue & Transparency:

Create an environment where dialogue between team members is encouraged regardless of one’s position — from the bottom up — so everyone feels like they have ownership over contributing ideas or solutions when necessary without fear of reprisal from higher-ups. Also, ensure transparency between all involved parties so information sharing becomes part of the natural culture within the organization instead of feeling forced or uncomfortable for anyone concerned.

4. Focus on Feedback & Development Opportunities

Maintain an ongoing dialogue between management and staff by offering regular feedback sessions concerning individual performance, strengths/weaknesses, etc., while also providing development opportunities allowing personnel to hone skillsets needed to grow professionally long-term basis.

5. Empower Employees

Give employees the autonomy and resources to take on leadership roles and make decisions. This will help them feel more engaged and motivated, and it will also help the organization to become more flexible and responsive to changing circumstances.

6. Lead by Example

As a servant leader, it’s essential to lead by example. Demonstrating the values and behaviors that you want to see in your team members will help to create a culture of servant leadership throughout the organization.

7. Encourage Collaboration

Encourage collaboration and teamwork by creating opportunities for team members to work together on projects and by recognizing and rewarding team efforts. This will help to build stronger relationships and a more cohesive team.

8. Communicate the Vision

Communicate the vision and mission of the organization, and make sure that everyone understands how their role fits into the overall goals of the organization. This will help to create a sense of shared purpose and motivation among team members.

9. Regularly Review Progress

Regularly review progress and make adjustments as needed. Monitor the effectiveness of the servant leadership approach, gather feedback from team members, and make changes as necessary. This will help to ensure that the organization is constantly improving and moving in the right direction.

4. Three Things to remember about Servant Leadership

What Servant Leadership is

Servant leadership is a philosophy and approach that puts the needs of others before your own. By focusing on service, humility, and trust in the workplace, servant leaders can create a productive and collaborative environment where everyone can thrive.

Implementing this leadership style requires commitment from both leader and team members alike, but it is an effective way to foster collaboration and success. With the right actions, support and dedication, servant leaders can help to take their teams—and their organization—to the next level.

The Pros

Servant leadership can lead to a more ethical and socially responsible organization, as it prioritizes the needs of the employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

This approach can also increase employee motivation and job satisfaction, which in turn can result in lower turnover rates and higher commitment and loyalty to the organization.

The benefits of servant leadership are also evident in better decision-making, as it encourages independent thinking and collaboration among team members.

The Cons

As with any leadership approach, there are also some potential downsides to servant leadership. It can be challenging to implement in organizations that are highly hierarchical or that have a strong “command and control” culture.

Leaders need to be aware of these potential drawbacks and find ways to mitigate them, such as setting clear performance goals, creating a culture that values mutual respect, and being prepared to make difficult decisions when necessary.


In conclusion, servant leadership is a leadership style based on serving others and putting the needs of employees, customers, and other stakeholders first. It can lead to a more engaged, motivated, and productive workforce, better decision-making, and a more ethical and socially responsible organization.

Implementing servant leadership requires a change in culture and mindset, training and development opportunities, open dialogue, transparency, focus on feedback and development opportunities, empowering employees, leading by example, encouraging collaboration and communication of the vision, and regularly reviewing progress.

While it may have its challenges, the benefits of servant leadership make it a practical approach for any organization looking to improve its performance, employee satisfaction, and overall success.

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