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10 Actions of Servant Leaders

What is servant leadership? The Greenleaf Institute defines it this way: “Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.” (Aug 2, 2016). Does this sound to good to be true? This concept, while not always practiced, is as necessary in business settings as it is in schools.

In recent years, corporations have embraced this model, and have found empirical evidence that supports its efficacy. According to Forbes, corporations such as Johnson and Johnson, have found this leadership style to be effective in engaging stakeholders and cultivating leadership. Why? Because true servant leadership is focused on serving all stakeholders within the organization or corporation. This is a philosophy that most schools and school leaders have embraced.

Good leaders, regardless of their setting, seek to serve those around them. In a school that means serving students, teachers, peers and colleagues. In a business, it is employees and customers that are served. Service to those you lead strengthens the bonds that build and enhance your organization and your leadership role. By acting as a servant leader, you build capacity that enables your role to evolve from a leader who has positional authority (authority that is given out of respect for the position you hold), to one who has gained the relational respect and authority of the stakeholders he or she leads. To be a truly effective leader it is critical to have both positional and relational capacity with those you serve. Relational authority is earned through relationships built on empathy, trust and service. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you seek to strengthen the relational bonds with those you lead.

The former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, Larry Sears, says these are the most important qualities of servant leaders:

  1. Listening.

  2. Empathy.

  3. Healing.

  4. Awareness.

  5. Persuasion.

  6. Conceptualization.

  7. Foresight.

  8. Stewardship.

  9. Commitment to the growth of people.

  10. Building community.

("Character and Servant Leadership: 10 Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders" by Larry C. Spears)

Lead to serve, serve to lead. Practicing servant leadership, leadership that values the individual and reaches out in a compassionate and empathetic way, does not diminish the mission of the organization, rather, it builds a team of trusted and respected co-workers and community, who will effectively carry out the organizational mission. To lead and serve demonstrates the hallmark of all great leaders. To make a difference, focus on your mission and as the saying goes, be the change you want to see in your organization.