The concept of servant leadership was developed by a teacher and author named Robert Greenleaf but has since become highly influential in the business world. Business owners and managers who value the servant leadership model of management strive to put the well-being of others first in all their business decisions.

Service and Leadership

Service and leadership have traditionally been seen as opposites, but sometimes the most effective and transformational leaders are those who approach their leadership responsibility as a type of service. According to Greenleaf, servant leadership begins with an authentic inner need to serve the well-being of others, followed by a conscious decision to take on the responsibility of leadership. For the servant leader, leadership is a way to help others rather than to exercise power over them. A business owner committed to servant leadership must demonstrate her commitment to helping others so they will believe in and support her leadership.

Leading by Listening

Servant leadership is different from traditional approaches to managing employees. Rather than relying on his position for authority, the servant leader earns the trust and respect of her subordinates by making their well-being a priority. The servant leader listens attentively to what her employees have to say and is open to their ideas, suggestions and aspirations. She demonstrates sincere empathy for their problems. By hearing and caring about what her employees really think, she earns their trust and respect for her leadership decisions.

Cultivating New Leaders

One of the characteristics of servant leadership is that servant leaders create new servant leaders. Rather than viewing subordinates as potential rivals or threats, the servant leader helps them grow into potential leaders. Greenleaf writes that one test of a servant leader is his effect on the people around him. Servant leaders encourage their subordinates to become more confident, more independent and more capable of taking on leadership tasks. Employees will believe in the commitment of a leader who helps them develop into leaders as well.

Cultivating Self-Awareness

Greenleaf describes the process of servant leadership as a struggle to achieve greater self-awareness even when the results prove challenging. Servant leaders ask themselves searching questions and act on the answers. They ask themselves whether they are leading by authority or by persuasion, whether their decisions have taken the whole community into account and whether their leadership truly serves the needs of others. By cultivating self-awareness, servant leaders not only demonstrate their commitment to servant leadership but also deepen it.