What Is Servant Leadership?


Quick Answer

Servant leadership, a concept defined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, places the leader's focus on serving others rather than exercising power or control. Servant leaders support others ? employees, colleagues, clients ? to develop their personal strengths and to perform at their best in service of their shared goals.

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Full Answer

Servant leadership requires the ability to listen and persuade others, while being committed to their growth. Servant leaders are goal and action oriented, able to think beyond a current situation to envision what might be possible. They are intuitive, dependable and willing to self-assess and adjust accordingly. Self-awareness is a crucial element of servant leadership; it is a means to avoid the overconfidence and arrogance that can accompany positions of power.

Servant leadership does not preclude the leader from making unpopular decisions or providing critical feedback, but it does require a leader to operate from a personal moral foundation. This is a unique element of servant leadership as defined by scholars studying its impact in comparison with other leadership theories.

Also unique is the encouragement of others to define and be led by their own personal moral or ethical code. Servant leadership supports organizational goals, while independently valuing the growth and development of each individual and extending this concern to the broader society.

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