What is servant leadership?

Dan Hurt

March 30, 2023

Servant leadership is a unique style of leading that is focused on developing leadership qualities in others. It’s a positive leadership approach that can benefit both your team and your company.

Unlike the traditional model of leadership, where you tell people what to do, servant leaders listen to their team and make sure their needs are met. This can lead to a better work environment and happier employees.


When leaders look out for the needs of employees and focus on their well-being before their own, they’re practicing servant leadership. This approach to leadership has several benefits, including improved employee engagement, which is a known driver of productivity and performance.

To practice servant leadership, a leader must show empathy, listen carefully, and demonstrate stewardship. They also need to understand their employees and commit to their growth as individuals and teams.

Servant leader encourages the development of their team by identifying opportunities to support them in becoming self-sufficient and making decisions. This empowers them and strengthens their sense of autonomy, which in turn promotes employee advocacy.

A servant leader also recognizes the importance of facilitating a learning environment and fostering a culture of learning and innovation. They acknowledge that they are not omniscient or omnipotent and that their employees have more knowledge than they do. They also strive to develop a long-term conceptual vision for their company that inspires and motivates their teams.


A good leader prioritizes active listening as a crucial part of their leadership style. It’s an effective way to foster trust in their team members and keep employees engaged with the company.

Listening can help you better understand what people are talking about and how they feel. It also allows you to gather information without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

The ability to listen effectively depends on your level of concentration and mental effort. You must be aware of your surroundings, the person’s body language, tone, and inflection, and how the speaker is using their words.

The first type of listening to that everyone has is discriminative, but you can improve your skills by asking open-ended questions and genuinely listening to what people are saying. You can also analyze the speaker’s facial expressions and body language to gain a better understanding of what they are trying to say.


Unlike authoritarian leaders, servant leaders persuade their team members to take action. They explain the advantages of doing things a certain way and why it’s important to everyone.

As a result, employees are more likely to work hard and meet company goals. This can make a big difference for any business, but it’s particularly beneficial for a service-based business that relies on its workers for profits.

While convincing others can sometimes be difficult, it’s a necessary part of servant leadership. Often, it’s more about influencing people to accept something than making them believe in it.

Servant leaders must be self-aware to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. This can help them grow as leaders and improve their overall effectiveness. It also helps them recognize how they fit into the larger team.

Thinking Long Term

Long-term thinking is an important aspect of servant leadership. It involves the ability to conceptualize a future that is beyond the immediate horizon and help others see that vision.

For example, Elon Musk is known for his commitment to long-term projects like the SpaceX program to send people to Mars and his mission to bring solar panels to every home in the world. These are all projects that would take a lifetime to complete.

These initiatives are much more expensive than most people realize, and they require patience and perseverance.

Many business leaders, including Seth Godin and Jeff Bezos, are well-known for their focus on the long term. Their strategies and investments can create solid growth, more jobs, public trust, and better rewards for shareholders.