Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy where the leader's primary focus is on serving and supporting the needs of others, empowering them to reach their full potential.

Imagine a leader who sees themselves not as the master, but as a servant to their team. A leader who prioritizes the growth, well-being, and success of their employees above all else. Such leaders who bring servant leadership foster environments where collaboration, empathy, and trust flourish, resulting in higher employee satisfaction, improved productivity, and enhanced organizational performance.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte, organizations that prioritize servant leadership theory experienced a 40% increase in employee retention rates, highlighting the profound impact this leadership style has on retaining talent and building a loyal workforce. Moreover, research found that companies led by servant leaders saw an average 13% increase in employee productivity compared to those with more traditional leadership styles.

But what exactly is servant leadership, and how does it shape a workplace? Let's dive into this extraordinary leadership style that is redefining the traditional notions of power and authority.

What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is a leadership theory that places the needs and well-being of others at the forefront. It is a selfless approach where leaders prioritize serving their team members, empowering them to grow, succeed, and reach their full potential. Rather than focusing on personal gain or wielding authority, servant leaders actively listen, empathize, and support their employees.

hq 216.png

Robert K. Greenleaf popularized the concept of servant leadership in the 1970s. Greenleaf believed that leaders should serve as stewards, putting the needs of their followers first. This philosophy challenges the traditional notions of leadership, which often revolve around power, control, and hierarchy.

Types of servant leadership

While servant leadership is a philosophy that emphasizes selflessness and prioritizing the needs of others, it can manifest in different ways within a workplace. 

Here are four types of servant leadership that can be practiced:

Coaching servant leadership

Coaching servant leaders focus on the growth and development of their team members. They act as mentors and guides, providing feedback, support, and resources to help individuals reach their full potential. These leaders invest time in understanding the unique strengths and aspirations of each employee, and they tailor their approach to facilitate personal and professional growth.

Empowering servant leadership

Empowering servant leaders believe in the abilities and potential of their team members. They delegate authority and responsibility, granting individuals the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work. These leaders create a culture of trust, where employees feel empowered to innovate, take risks, and contribute meaningfully to the organization's goals.

Humble servant leadership

Humble servant leaders exhibit humility and modesty in their actions and interactions. They do not seek personal recognition or praise, but instead, they give credit to their team members. These leaders acknowledge the contributions of others, actively listen to different perspectives and foster a collaborative environment where everyone's ideas are valued and respected.

Visionary servant leadership

Visionary servant leaders inspire and motivate their teams through a compelling vision of the future. They articulate a clear purpose and direction, aligning the efforts of their employees with the organization's mission. These leaders communicate their vision effectively, instilling a sense of purpose and enthusiasm among team members, and they actively involve employees in shaping and realizing that vision.

Importance of servant leadership

The importance of servant leadership lies in its ability to create positive impacts on individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. By prioritizing the growth and well-being of others, servant leaders cultivate a culture of collaboration, empowerment, and engagement. Here are some key reasons why is servant leadership important:

  1. Enhanced Employee Engagement: Servant leadership has been linked to higher levels of employee engagement, which leads to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. According to a Gallup study, engaged teams demonstrate 21% higher profitability compared to disengaged teams.
  2. Improved Job Performance: Servant leaders foster an environment that encourages individuals to reach their full potential, resulting in improved job performance. A research study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies found a positive relationship between servant leadership and individual performance
  3. Higher Employee Satisfaction: Servant leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members, leading to increased job satisfaction. A study conducted by the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership found that servant leadership positively influenced employee satisfaction and commitment. 
  4. Enhanced Organizational Culture: Servant leadership promotes a culture of trust, collaboration, and open communication. This inclusive culture fosters creativity, innovation, and problem-solving, benefiting the overall performance and success of the organization. According to a study published in the South East European Journal of Economics and Business, servant leadership positively influenced organizational citizenship behavior
  5. Positive Social Impact: Servant leaders extend their focus beyond organizational boundaries and contribute to the well-being of society. By actively serving their communities, servant leaders inspire others to follow suit, creating a ripple effect of positive change. This societal impact can lead to stronger communities, improved social equity, and a more sustainable future.

Servant leadership characteristics

There are several benefits of servant leadership, which is characterized by key traits and behaviors that distinguish it from other leadership styles. Here are some important characteristics of servant leadership:

  • Empathy: Servant leaders can understand and share the feelings of others. They can put themselves in the shoes of others and see things from their perspective.
  • Listening: Servant leaders are good listeners. They can pay attention to what others are saying and understand their concerns. They are also able to ask clarifying questions to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the situation.
  • Communication: Servant leaders are effective communicators. They can clearly articulate their vision and goals. They are also able to listen to feedback and adjust their plans accordingly.
  • Stewardship: Servant leaders are stewards of their organization's resources. They are careful with how they use resources and ensure that they are used in a way that benefits the organization and its members.
  • Foresight: Servant leaders have foresight. They can see the big picture and anticipate future challenges. They are also able to develop strategies to address these challenges.
  • Commitment to the growth of others: Servant leaders are committed to the growth of others. They provide opportunities for others to learn and develop their skills. They also celebrate the successes of others.
  • Building community: Servant leaders build community. They create an environment where people feel valued and respected. They also promote collaboration and teamwork.

1 (1).png

07 Principles of servant leadership

Servant leadership is guided by a set of principles that shape the approach and actions of leaders. Here are 07 principles of servant leadership:

  1. Service: The primary principle of servant leadership, as it sets the tone for prioritizing the needs of others and fostering a culture of support and collaboration.
  2. Empathy: Understanding and sharing the feelings of others is crucial for building trust, fostering strong relationships, and creating a supportive work environment.
  3. Listening: Active listening is essential for effective communication, problem-solving, and building a sense of belonging within the team.
  4. Selflessness: Prioritizing the well-being and growth of team members over personal gain or ego is fundamental to servant leadership and creates a culture of selflessness and mutual support.
  5. Awareness: Both self-awareness and situational awareness are critical for making informed decisions, understanding the needs of the team, and navigating organizational dynamics effectively.
  6. Stewardship: Viewing oneself as a steward of resources and focusing on sustainable growth and long-term success reinforces a sense of responsibility and accountability within the organization.
  7. Commitment to the Growth of Others: Investing in the personal and professional growth of team members not only strengthens the team but also contributes to the overall success and resilience of the organization.

Servant leadership vs. traditional leadership

Servant LeadershipTraditional Leadership
Focus on serving others and meeting their needs.Focus on exercising authority and achieving personal goals.
Prioritizes the well-being and growth of team members.Prioritizes individual success and attainment of organizational objectives.
Values empathy, active listening, and understanding others.Emphasizes direction-setting, decision-making, and control.
Creates a collaborative and inclusive work culture.Promotes a hierarchical structure and top-down decision-making.
Engages in open and transparent communication.Relies on formal communication channels and limited information sharing.
Encourages participation, empowerment, and autonomy.Exercises command and control, delegating tasks based on authority.
Builds trust, rapport, and positive relationships.Establishes authority through positional power.
Focuses on long-term sustainability and social responsibility.Emphasizes short-term results and profitability.
Views leadership as a service to others and the organization.Views leadership as a position of authority and power.
Values personal and professional growth of team members.Values performance and achievement of targets.

Pros and cons of servant leadership

The servant leadership style has the potential to significantly enhance an employee's motivation and courage to be more creative and innovative. This is attributed to the fact that servant leaders grant ownership and some level of control to their employees. By doing so, several advantages of servant leadership outcomes can be observed:

Advantages of servant leadership 

  • Enhanced Employee Engagement and Satisfaction: Servant leaders prioritize the well-being and growth of their team members, leading to higher levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction. This, in turn, fosters a positive work environment and improves overall employee performance.
  • Increased Collaboration and Teamwork: Servant leaders create a culture of collaboration and teamwork by fostering open communication, trust, and mutual respect. This collaborative environment encourages innovation, creativity, and problem-solving, leading to better outcomes and increased productivity.
  • Improved Employee Retention: Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their team members and create a supportive work environment. This contributes to higher employee retention rates, as employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to stay with the organization.
  • Strengthened Organizational Culture: Servant leadership promotes a culture of trust, respect, and empathy. This positive culture permeates throughout the organization, influencing employee behavior, decision-making, and overall organizational performance.
  • Enhanced Organizational Performance: By focusing on the growth and development of their team members, servant leaders create a motivated and empowered workforce. This, in turn, leads to improved performance, productivity, and innovation within the organization.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that implementing servant leadership successfully requires substantial time, energy, and skill.

Disadvantages of servant leadership

  • Time and Resource Intensive: Practicing servant leadership requires a significant investment of time and resources. Servant leaders need to actively engage with their team members, listen to their needs, and provide support. This can be challenging for leaders with limited time and competing demands.
  • Potential for Exploitation: In some cases, servant leaders may become too focused on meeting the needs of others that they neglect their well-being. This can lead to burnout and the potential for exploitation by individuals who take advantage of the leader's selflessness.
  • Decision-Making Challenges: Servant leaders prioritize input from their team members and seek consensus. While this participative approach can enhance employee engagement, it may lead to delays in decision-making processes, especially when there are diverse opinions and perspectives to consider.
  • Resistance to Change: Servant leaders may face resistance from individuals who are accustomed to traditional leadership styles and hierarchical structures. The shift towards servant leadership may require overcoming resistance and skepticism from both employees and other leaders within the organization.
  • Balancing Individual and Organizational Needs: Servant leaders must strike a balance between meeting the individual needs of their team members and achieving organizational goals. This can be a delicate balancing act, requiring careful consideration and decision-making to ensure alignment and effectiveness.

It is important to note that the disadvantages mentioned above do not diminish the overall value and effectiveness of servant leadership. Rather, they highlight potential challenges that leaders may encounter when implementing this leadership style and the need for thoughtful consideration and adaptation.

Servant leadership examples

Several organizations and companies are known for practicing servant leadership. Here are a few companies that use servant leadership examples:

  1. The Toro Company: The Toro Company, a leading provider of outdoor maintenance equipment, is one of the companies that use servant leadership. The company's CEO, Richard M. Olson, believes in empowering employees and creating a culture where leaders serve their teams. This approach has resulted in high employee engagement, low turnover rates, and a collaborative work environment.
  2. Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines has long been recognized for its servant leadership culture. The company's founder, Herb Kelleher, believed in treating employees as the primary customers and empowering them to provide excellent customer service. This servant leadership approach has contributed to Southwest's success in the highly competitive airline industry.
  3. Starbucks: Starbucks, the renowned coffeehouse chain, is another top companies that use servant leadership as a guiding principle. The company focuses on creating a supportive environment for its employees, known as partners, by providing comprehensive training, fostering open communication, and offering opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  4. Patagonia: Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company, is renowned for its commitment to servant leadership. The company's founder, Yvon Chouinard, has instilled a culture that values environmental sustainability, employee well-being, and community engagement. Patagonia encourages employees to pursue their passions, supports work-life balance, and promotes environmental stewardship.
  5. Wegmans Food Markets: Wegmans, a family-owned supermarket chain, is often cited as an exemplar of servant leadership. The company prioritizes the well-being and development of its employees, providing extensive training, competitive compensation, and a positive work environment. Wegmans' emphasis on serving both customers and employees has contributed to its reputation as an exceptional employer.

These are some of the servant leadership examples. So, let’s proceed ahead and learn, 

How to become a “Servant First” leader?

Becoming a "servant first" leader requires a deliberate mindset shift and a commitment to developing certain qualities and behaviors. Here are the steps you can take to become a servant leader:

  • Embrace a Service Mindset: Shift your focus from self-interest to serving others. Cultivate a genuine desire to meet the needs, support the growth, and promote the well-being of your team members.
  • Develop Empathy and Active Listening Skills: Strive to understand and empathize with the experiences, perspectives, and emotions of your team members. Practice active listening to truly hear and understand their needs, concerns, and ideas.
  • Lead by Example: Demonstrate servant leadership qualities through your actions. Model the behaviors you want to see in others, such as humility, collaboration, and integrity. Your actions will set the tone for your team and inspire them to follow your lead.
  • Prioritize Employee Development: Make the growth and development of your team members a priority. Provide them with opportunities for learning, skill-building, and personal growth. Support their aspirations and help them unlock their full potential.
  • Foster a Collaborative and Inclusive Environment: Create a work culture that values collaboration, trust, and open communication. Encourage team members to contribute their ideas, opinions, and perspectives. Create opportunities for collaboration and teamwork to thrive.
  • Practice Servant Leadership Behaviors: Actively look for ways to serve your team members. Provide support, guidance, and resources to help them succeed. Remove barriers and empower them to take ownership of their work and make decisions.
  • Seek Input and Encourage Participation: Involve your team members in decision-making processes. Seek their input, ideas, and feedback. Encourage them to take ownership and contribute to the direction and goals of the team.
  • Foster a Culture of Recognition and Appreciation: Acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of your team members. Recognize their efforts and celebrate their achievements. Create a positive and supportive work environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated.
  • Continuously Reflect and Learn: Regularly reflect on your leadership approach and seek feedback from your team members. Be open to learning and adapting your leadership style based on the needs and feedback of your team.
  • Practice Patience and Persistence: Becoming a servant leader is a journey that requires patience and persistence. It takes time to build relationships, develop skills, and create a servant leadership culture. Stay committed to your growth as a servant leader and consistently practice the principles and behaviors of servant leadership.

While implementing servant leadership requires time, energy, and skill, the long-term rewards are worth the effort. Servant leaders inspire and uplift their team members, fostering an environment where individuals can thrive and reach their full potential.

How does EasySource help you become a "Servant First" leader? 

EasySource, a talent sourcing product, aligns closely with the principles of servant leadership by empowering recruiters to prioritize the needs and growth of candidates. By providing a streamlined platform for candidate sourcing and personalized outreach, EasySource enables recruiters to serve candidates effectively, fostering an environment where collaboration, empathy, and trust flourish.

EasySource logo.webp

EasySource facilitates servant leadership by:

1. Service: EasySource serves as a tool to support recruiters in meeting the needs of candidates by streamlining the sourcing process and providing personalized outreach capabilities.

2. Empathy: Through its AI-driven features, EasySource helps recruiters empathize with candidates by understanding their skills, experiences, and preferences, thereby enhancing the candidate experience.

3. Listening: EasySource enables recruiters to actively listen to candidate profiles and preferences, ensuring that their sourcing efforts are tailored to the needs of the candidates.

4. Selflessness: By prioritizing the well-being and success of candidates, EasySource allows recruiters to focus on serving others rather than solely on their own interests or objectives.

5. Commitment to the Growth of Others: EasySource supports recruiters in investing in the growth and development of candidates by providing tools for personalized outreach and engagement.

As we navigate an evolving workplace landscape, servant leadership offers a powerful framework for leading with compassion, empathy, and a genuine commitment to the well-being and success of others. By embracing the principles and characteristics of servant leadership, leaders can shape workplaces that are not only successful and productive but also nurturing, empowering, and ultimately, transformative for everyone involved.  

EasySource not only offers a powerful solution for candidate sourcing but also promotes the values and principles of servant leadership by empowering recruiters to prioritize the needs and growth of candidates. By leveraging EasySource, recruiters can embody the qualities of a "Servant First" leader, creating a positive impact on both candidates and organizations alike.