10 Attributes of Being a Servant Leader

Leaders are typically pictured as the people in the front of the room. The ones with the most persuasion in their voice or charisma are natural fits for the American cultural ideal of leadership. However, leadership can also take another form in that of the leader working alongside others to get the job done, motivating their team with positive encouragement and model behavior. The types of leaders that recognize the needs that others have and then get to work on those needs are affectionately called servant leaders. 

Truett Cathy, late CEO of Chick-fil-A, modeled the image of a servant leader even into his elder years and last days with the company. He enjoyed hosting corporate office dinners at his home, and he and his wife Trudy bussed the tables and washed the dishes after each event was done. The culture of servant leadership began with the leader of that organization and trickled down from the corner office to the wait staff at each local restaurant.

In the 1970s, Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership. He noticed the way that people saw the needs around them and took action to help versus a more transactional leadership approach that was more popular at the time. In his essay, "The Servant as Leader," Greenleaf says, "The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served."

Research says that in organizations where servant leadership culture is accepted an increase sales team performance can occur which leads to increased profitability. Servant leadership culture also promotes employee satisfaction and organizational citizenship behaviors.

Some individuals in leadership positions are more naturally attuned to the style of servant leadership or learn to practice the 10 attributes over time by personifying the behavior of their servant leader mentors.

Servant Leadership 2

Besides the benefits to the organization, there are also some personal benefits to the servant leader, including better overall health and wellbeing. Research tells us that those who participate in community service often have a longer, healthier more satisfied life, lower mortality rate, less chance of serious illness and depression, and higher self-esteem. Servant leadership is good for business and good for the leader's personal health.

If servant leadership is your preferred mode of operation, it looks like you are in for good all the way around.

In order to understand if you are practicing servant leadership, administer "The Best Test," by asking yourself the following questions:Do those I serve grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect of my service on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

related topics: leadership

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