DEFINITION of 'Servant Leadership'

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which an individual interacts with others – either in a management or fellow employee capacity – with the aim of achieving authority rather than power. The authority figure intends to promote the well-being of those around him or her. Servant leadership involves the individual demonstrating the characteristics of empathy, listening, stewardship and commitment to personal growth toward others.

BREAKING DOWN 'Servant Leadership'

Servant leadership seeks to move management and personnel interaction away from "controlling activities" and toward a more synergistic relationship between parties. The term "servant leadership" was coined by Robert Greenleaf, a twentieth-century researcher who was skeptical about traditional leadership styles that focused on more authoritarian relationships between employers and employees.

According to Greenleaf’s observations, the servant leader approaches situations and organizations from the perspective of a servant first, looking to lend their presence to answer the needs of the organization and others. They seek to address wants and requirements as their priority, with leadership to be pursued secondarily. This contrasts with the leader-first perspective, wherein a person aims to gain control quickly often driven by the desire and prospects for material gain or influence.

Servant Leadership Is Driven by a Desire to Serve

Where the leader-first dynamic is oriented to appease a personal desire for power, the servant leader looks first to how their service benefits others. For example, a servant leader might question how their efforts uplift those who are underrepresented or are from lower economic standing before seeking to attain a position of control. Their progression to a position of leadership comes after their commitment to service. This can be seen in the healthcare world, for instance, as medical practitioners work to benefit their patients and assist their peers and teammates in providing that care. In the business world, this can mean seeing that employees, customers, and all other stakeholders can prosper through their service.

Developing and mentoring the team who follow their instructions, or the clients’ and customers’ needs take precedence to personal elevation. Even upon attaining a position of governance, a servant leader typically encourages their subordinates to look to serve others as their priority over focusing on personal gains. A servant leader may aim to share power with others and encourage the development and growth of others. This trait can extend to listening to followers carefully to better understand their needs, but it also involves leaders holding themselves and others accountable for their words and actions.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Leadership

    Leadership is the ability of a company's management to make sound ...
  2. Master-Servant Rule

    The master-servant rule is a legal guideline stating that employers ...
  3. Succession Planning

    Succession planning is the strategy for passing on leadership ...
  4. Performance Management

    Performance management is the supervision of employees and departments ...
  5. Market Challenger

    A market challenger is a firm that has a market share below that ...
  6. Official Strike

    An official strike is a work stoppage by union members that is ...
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How to improve your leadership skills

    Being a leader can help you in your career. Here are some tips for improving your leadership skills.
  2. Small Business

    3 secrets of successful companies

    Make smart investments by using these three secrets to spot up-and-coming companies to invest in before they become household names.
  3. Insights

    Who Has the Most Stressful Job?

    Government workers have the most stressful jobs, at least in Britain. Here's where job stress comes from.
  4. Personal Finance

    Controller: Career Path and Qualifications

    Find out what it takes to become a financial controller, starting with undergraduate educational requirements and moving into professional certification.
  5. Personal Finance

    Common Interview Questions for Personal Bankers

    Discover how to prepare for your next personal banking job interview by showing your passion for personal finance and desire to help people reach their goals.
  6. Small Business

    How Small Businesses Can Hire & Keep Top Employees

    Here is how small business owners can find the right employees, help them succeed and stay engaged at the company.
  7. Investing

    5 Great Investors Who Aren't Warren Buffett

    Here are five other investors, not named Warren Buffett, that are also considered to be the best of the best in the industry.
  8. Small Business

    Whom Should Corporations Please?

    Companies balance the interests of owners, customers and employees. Find out who comes out on top.
  9. Personal Finance

    The Seven-Figure Asset You’re Probably Ignoring

    What is human capital and how should it factor into your investment decisions?
  10. Trading

    Citigroup Rises Into Market Leadership

    Citigroup has broken out to an eight-year high, while its peers struggle at prices seen in the first sessions of 2017.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Is business ethics important in business profitability?

    Business ethics as a guiding philosophy within a company can have a drastic impact on long-term business profitability and ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center