Service leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader’s main focus is the thriving of their company or organizations. A Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership inverts the norm, which puts the customer service associates as a main priority. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people.

As stated by its founder, Robert K. Greenleaf, a Servant Leader should be focused on, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they benefit as well as their employees in that their employees acquire personal growth, while the organization grows as well due to the employees growing commitment and engagement. Since this leadership style came about, a number of different organizations have adopted this style as their way of leadership. According to a 2002 study done by Sen Sendjaya and James C Sarros, Servant Leadership is being practiced in some of the top-ranking companies, and these companies are highly ranked because of their leadership style and following.

How to become a servant leader

1.    Declare Service a top priority

We become quick to assume that service relates only to that which we give our customers, but it is so much more than that, it’s the mindset of giving, wanting and desiring growth for your company through your people and genuinely caring for your people beyond their daily tasks and duties. Declare it as a cultural norm within your organisation from the top down and then do it, serve by doing, learn by showing and lead by example.

2.    Be a great role model

I love this one, your people will follow you and are watching you whether you know it or like it or not, we have a natural tendency as humans to emulate and mirror those who lead us. We hold our leaders to a high (sometimes unrealistic) regard which could either lead to their demise in the eyes of those who follow, or they never quite live up to our expectations. As a service leader one should remember that being a role model is a permanent characteristic. Vulnerability is ok as a leader, cohesion and collaboration are also ok and expected. Play your people to their strengths and serve serve serve.

3.    Create a Service language

Coach for the sake of performance and engagement and then manage expectations from the get-go, ask pertinent questions that create a culture of openness and allows for innovation. Change the narrative from instruction to that of questioning and thought leadership. Don’t assume that each person you lead/serve knows what you do.

4.    Humble is not a pie

Take a step back from your office and get perspective, you are where you are because you earned it, worked hard, are qualified and very capable. Without the people and teams around you, outputs would be impossible, and organisational goals insurmountable. Take a step down from your ladder and see who you can lift up a rung or two. Take in the recognition with the temperance it is meant for and remember you are a mortal along with those you serve.

Take a good look at your leadership style and ask yourself, am I serving? Are my people working for the better of the organisation through genuine engagement? Are we moving forward together? Do I ask what I can do for the people in the organisation? Do I review and learn about service leadership?

Go and serve, do it now, the results may astonish you


Ref: Wikipedia – Service leadership (intro)

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