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Servant Leadership

Key Idea

One of the touchstone philosophies of leadership, developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. The servant leader gives priority to those they serve, serving as a trusted steward for the organization.  Servant leaders always place the well-being of their colleagues first. For those who want to see the philosophy in action, look no further than corporate culture and management style of Southwest Airlines.

Book to Read  

Servant Leadership
by Robert Greenleaf (2002, 25th Anniversary Edition)

Quick take from the Book 

According to the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, there are 7 practices of a servant leader:

  1. Self-Awareness (the ability to reflect on one’s own blind spots and biases)
  2. Listening (the ability to seek to understand before you seek to be understood)
  3. Changing the Pyramid (the ability to serve your team instead of your team serving the “boss”)
  4. Developing Your Colleagues (the ability to see your colleagues as people first, colleagues who want to grow and have their work serve a larger purpose)
  5. Coaching, not Controlling (the ability to persuade, not coerce)
  6. Unleashing the Energy and Intelligence of Others (the ability to inspire everyone to contribute, not just a few) 
  7. Foresight (the ability to use hindsight and insight to foresee the not-yet future)

Quote of Note 

"[The servant as leader] begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature." — Robert Greenleaf

Related Styles: Positive Leadership, Authentic Leadership 

Return to List of Leadership Styles