A servant leader values diversity and recognizes the intrinsic value of each member in the community. Each member in the community is valuable and has different talents that are integral to the whole. He creates the milieu in which these talents can be advanced and polished. A servant leader celebrates differences rather than promote identical followers. And, he values diversity in the community and enables others to discover and reach the full potential for the betterment of him and of the teams. This is a teamwork in which every individual contributes for collective success, instead of competition. A servant leader considers that power passes through, but not from him. He is entrusted with moral and ethical responsibilities to use his power for the betterment of others.
10 Characteristics of a Servant Leader
Larry C. Spears derived a set of ten characteristics of a servant leader from Robert K. Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness“. Spears believes that these 10 traits are critically essential to the development of servant leaders.
1. Listening. A servant leader listens his audience carefully to what is being said and what is not. He finds the opportunity to identify and help clarify the desires of others. Listening is very important attitude in understanding audience and circumstances. Thus, A servant leader not only hears the outer voice but pays attention to the inner voice of the speaker.
2. Empathy. A servant leader is an empathetic listener who exhibits acceptance and understanding. He assumes the good intents of others and conveys to others that their worth is not based on their performance, but with their intrinsic value.
3. Healing. A servant leader assumes that individuals may come with bitter experiences and suffer from emotional pains. He reaches out to bring healing and restoration to them. He is compassionate to people come with bitter experiences and strengthens relationships. Healing empowers individual to accept opportunities for growth and further development.
4. Awareness. A servant leader observes situations carefully, evaluating issues against ethics, power and values. In the words of Greenleaf, “able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed. They are not seekers after solace. They have their own inner serenity”.
5. Persuasion. A servant leader does not force others into obedience or performance. He persuades others to reach consensus and is relational, and influences others to collaborate and achieve collective triumph.
6. Conceptualization. A servant leader is a visionary who has bigger dreams. So, he cannot be used up by short-term operational goals and lose sight of the big picture and vision for the organization. It takes discipline and consistent practice to balance conceptual thinking and a daily operational goal.
7. Foresight. A servant leader learns from past and has a good understanding of present. He foresees probable future events and anticipates their results from trend analysis. A servant leader is conscious of making ethical choices to avoid future failure.
8. Stewardship. A servant leader is a steward who is committed to serving the requirements of others. He is held accountable for the success of the organization in achieving its objectives, as well as, its relationship with and effect on the society.
9. Commitment to the Growth of People. A servant leader has a growth mindset, believing that everybody can achieve new understanding and has the potential to reach higher levels of accomplishment. Again, he needs to nurture and is interested to facilitate the personal, professional and spiritual growth of self and others in the community.
10. Building Community. A servant leader builds community to connect people within an organization so that they can get support from one another and find their sense of belonging. He brings people together to form supportive networks.
Example of a Servant Leader
In the concept of servant leadership, the leadership aspect is highlighted and legitimized through the process of serving. Jesus Christ endured the Cross and became the way to repair the broken relationships between God and humanity. He was the capstone on which the community of believers established their shared vision and faith. A servant leader develops others to be and become servant leaders.