The Corporate Chaos

Mastering Servant Leadership to Create Top Teams in 2024


A team with a female leader who follows Servant Leadership style

Leadership paradigms have undergone significant shifts in an ever-changing business environment today. Among these models is “servant leadership”, which is becoming popular. In its most basic form servant leadership means attending to others’ interests over self-interest without emphasizing power or authority; but rather stressing service and support in empowering team members to achieve their greatest capability.

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Servant Leadership Definition and its Importance

Servant leadership takes into consideration the needs of others first instead of focusing on power or dominance. In essence, at the center are concepts like others’ feelings and refraining from taking advantage of them. Such leaders keep their interests lower than the interests of those addressed by them. This leadership style focuses on a team-based approach that encourages participants’ personal development. Research suggests that this approach can lead to better employee productivity and satisfaction, thereby contributing to the organization’s success. It is a powerful leadership style if you are looking to build a high-performing team.

Servant Leadership Theory

In 1970, Robert K. Greenleaf authored an insignificant essay named “The Servant As Leader,” an article that brought the term “servant leadership” into common use. He produced a classic book “Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness” in 1977 which delved deeper into the theory of servant leadership. In this book, he described the 10 principles of the servant leadership, which are:

  1. Listening: Servant leaders support their team members by listening and being cautious of what is unsaid.
  2. Empathy: They try to see the world through the lens of their team member to understand their perspective.
  3. Healing: These leaders focus on healing self and team thereby facilitating growth at a professional level.
  4. Awareness: They have a high level of self-awareness and can challenge what does not feel right.
  5. Persuasion: Servant leaders do not act with authority but use persuasive techniques to guide and educate their team members.
  6. Conceptualization: Such leaders share a clear vision and articulate it with ease to their team.
  7. Foresight: Servant leaders understand the long-term impact of their decisions and actions.
  8. Stewardship: They take accountability for their team’s well-being as a whole.
  9. Commitment: Servant leaders commit to the personal and professional growth of their team.
  10. Community: Such leaders try to identify means of building a community within their team.

Benefits of Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership style focusses on team empowerment and their well-being which may lead to a happy and better workplace. But, like everything else under the sun, there is a flip side that requires taking cognizance of the advantages and disadvantages of such a leadership philosophy.

Advantages of Servant Leadership

Disadvantages of Servant Leadership

  1. The team feels appreciated and determined.
  2. Promotes belief, unity, and creativity.
  3. High level of employee commitment
  4. Superior decision-making
  5. Elevate productivity and contentment.
  6. Promotes professional and personal development
  1.  Dependency on the leader
  2.  Not the best leadership style for all situations.
  3.  Difficult to implement.
  4.  Requires strong interpersonal skills.
  5.  Resistance to change from employees.
  6.  Servant leaders may feel burnout soon.

Implementing Servant Leadership, Tips from personal experience

I have lived in the world of talent acquisition for several years and have always directed my efforts towards creating high-achieving teams. There are many leadership styles like Transformational leadership, Democratic leadership, Coaching leadership etc but not every leadership approach may be as effective as servant leadership. Here is an illustration of how I implemented this idea during my tenure as a talent acquisition manager:

  1. Emphasize “Why”, not “What”. Every individual yearns to belong to something bigger. I began with setting and communicating what our team wanted to achieve and how their effort mattered. This created a sense of ownership.
  2. Micromanagement hampers innovation. Successful solutions are usually achieved through clarity and communication. You move from delegation to a supportive role while letting your team execute as per plan. You must empower every team member with certain responsibilities to unlock their potential.
  3. Mindful Listening. Mindful listening creates a trustworthy relationship with your team. Set up regular one-on-one conversations to listen to their concerns and challenges. This not only uplifts their morale but also makes them feel valuable.
  4. Celebrate Wins. Motivation requires the support of appreciation. It was my habit to appreciate team achievement as well as personal accomplishments. Such a situation led to constant learning and positive encouragement.
  5. Learning: Even leaders need to learn and focus on continuous growth. Attending workshops, reading books, and seeking mentorship from great leaders takes you a long way.

Through the application of these strategies, I saw how much hierarchical structures has changed. The point here is to create a place where all the employees can feel dignified, activated, and ready to contribute to their greatest capacity.

Examples of successful servant leaders

  1. Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric: Jack Welch changed General Electric from a small American Company to a big international corporation. His most famous saying is: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
  2. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks: Howard transformed a small coffee retail shop into a global business. He followed a servant leadership style which created an experience for both the customers and employees.
  3. Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft: He is a great example of servant leadership, and his philosophy centers on aiding other people. A significant proportion of his wealth goes into charity which improves life and creates transformation in the world.

Servant Leadership Books: 

Countless resources are available to deepen your understanding of servant leadership principles. Below are some books which you must read.

  1. The Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse
  2. The Secret by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller
  3. The Servant as Leader by Robert K. Greenleaf
  4. Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf
  5. The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
  6. The Serving Leader by Kenneth R. Jennings and John Stahl-Wert
  7. Dare to Serve by Cheryl Bachelder

Measuring Servant Leadership Effectiveness:

How can we tell if servant leadership is working? These key performance indicators (KPIs) can help decide its effectiveness: 

  1. Employee Engagement: Does your team feel motivated, energized, or willing to put in more effort than expected?
  2. Team Performance: Is your team meeting its targets and objectives?
  3. Employee Retention: Are there low departures and high loyalty in your team?
  4. Innovation and Creativity: Does your team come out with fresh ideas that lead to solutions?
  5. Employee Satisfaction Surveys: Get feedback on your leadership style from your team.

When you focus on these aspects, you can develop yourself as a servant leader. Make use of precious resources and find out how well you have done creating a healthy and effective team.


Servant leadership is not a mere change of guard, but more about adopting a service mentality. By putting other people’s interests first and creating a culture of working together and empowering others. This will help in enhancing one’s leadership style and inspire change.

After understanding the principles and practices of servant leadership, it is time to act and unleash maximum leadership capabilities. Use servant leadership to realize a new leadership style and create a thriving team at the same time!

Always remember that leadership has nothing to do with one’s title but how much influence he or she has on people’s lives.

FAQs About Servant Leadership

A servant leader puts the growth of his team ahead of his own. In doing so, they impart knowledge and act as guides towards a learning atmosphere. They listen actively, plan a clear vision, and serve as a supportive mentor.

The core principles of servant leadership are empathy, humility, and stewardship, which place the interest of the team above theirs.

Companies employing this philosophy experience higher employee morale, performance, and contentment. Such companies have a great culture with high spirits.

Teams who always rely on their leaders for decisions may not adapt to new methods of leadership brought about by servant-leaders; moreover, it can be difficult for them to separate between personal goals and company objectives in life. 

Through training programs, workshops, and coaching sessions, as well as by seeking guidance from mentors and peers, leaders can improve their servant leadership abilities.

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