Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a management philosophy that places the needs of others first, emphasizing empathy, collaboration, and empowerment. Coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, this leadership style focuses on serving team members, enabling them to reach their full potential, and achieve collective success. Let’s explore the principles of servant leadership, its benefits, and its significance in modern-day organizations.

Servant Leadership is built upon a foundation of essential principles:

  1. Empathy and Compassion: A servant leader actively listens to their team, shows genuine concern for their well-being, and seeks to understand their perspectives.
  2. Humility: Servant leaders put the needs of others above their own, avoiding ego-driven decisions and remaining receptive to feedback.
  3. Empowerment: Fostering a culture of trust and empowerment, servant leaders provide their team members with the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
  4. Vision and Values: A servant leader communicates a clear vision and instills shared values within the team, promoting a sense of purpose and direction.

While all of these principles seem logical, how does a leader go about implementing a servant leadership style into their workplace? The first step is centered on listening and communication. Cultivating active listening skills are crucial for a servant leader to understand their team’s concerns, ideas, and aspirations. Secondly, effective communication is another way to implement servant leadership. Effective communication helps build a strong bond of trust and respect. Much like a plant needs water, our team members need support and encouragement to grow. Servant leaders prioritize supporting their team members in their personal and professional growth. They offer encouragement and provide the necessary resources for success whenever possible. Lastly, a servant leader actively works to create a conducive environment for productivity by removing barriers. Identifying and eliminating obstacles that hinder the team’s progress is essential.

The positive impact of servant leadership on organizational culture can be seen in several ways. Employees are significantly more engaged under guidance of a servant leader. Servant leadership fosters a positive and nurturing work environment which leads to higher job satisfaction among team members. Increased teamwork is also evidence of this leadership style. By promoting open communication and empathy, servant leadership encourages collaboration and teamwork. Retention and development are also impacted by servant leadership. Organizations with servant leaders tend to attract and retain top talent due to their emphasis on employee growth and well-being. Candidates and employees are really looking for meaningful work and development opportunities in addition to competitive compensation.

Servant leadership stands as a powerful and transformative approach to leadership, putting people at the center of an organization’s success. By embracing empathy, humility, and empowerment, leaders can create an environment where individuals thrive, collaboration flourishes, and the organization as a whole achieves its goals. In adopting the principles of servant leadership, businesses can pave the way for sustainable growth, heightened employee satisfaction leading to retention, and a positive impact on the community.

-Brittney Atkins, Member of the 2023 Emerging Leaders Cohort


  1. Greenleaf, R.K. (1977). “Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.” Paulist Press.
  2. Spears, L.C. (Ed.). (2002). “Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the 21st Century”. John Wiley & Sons.
  3. Sendjaya, S., & Sarros, J.C. (2002). “Servant Leadership: Its Origin, Development, and Application in Organizations.” Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 9(2), 57-64.

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