9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

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Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.

Leading With Others in Mind

At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:

As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office.  Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything.  When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.

No, that isn’t servant leadership.


“Servant leaders lead with others in mind.” -Skip Prichard


Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.

A servant leader is one who:

1. Values diverse opinions.

A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions.  If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.


“Servant leaders regularly seek out opinions.” -Skip Prichard


2. Cultivates a culture of trust.

People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.


“Servant leaders cultivate a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard


3.  Develops other leaders.


The replication factor is so important.  It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example.  That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.


“Servant leaders give up power and deputize others to lead.” -Skip Prichard


4.  Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).

It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job.  Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette.  None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.


“Servant leaders care about people’s lives, not just their jobs.” -Skip Prichard



9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

1: Values diverse opinions

2: Cultivates a culture of trust

3: Develops other leaders

4: Helps people with life issues

5: Encourages

6: Sells instead of tells

7: Thinks you, not me

8: Thinks long-term

9: Acts with humility


5.  Encourages.

The hallmark of a servant leader is encouragement.  And a true servant leader says, “Let’s go do it,” not, “You go do it.”


“The hallmark of a servant leader is encouragement.” -Skip Prichard


6.  Sells instead of tells.

A servant leader is the opposite of a dictator. It’s a style all about persuading, not commanding.


“Servant leaders sell and persuade where others command and control.” -Skip Prichard


7.  Thinks “you,” not “me.”

There’s a selfless quality about a servant leader.  Someone who is thinking only, “How does this benefit me?” is disqualified.


“Servant leaders think ‘you’ not ‘me’.” -Skip Prichard


8.  Thinks long-term.

A servant leader is thinking about the next generation, the next leader, the next opportunity. That means a tradeoff between what’s important today versus tomorrow, and making choices to benefit the future.


“Servant leaders sacrifice some today to develop more for tomorrow.” -Skip Prichard


9.  Acts with humility.

The leader doesn’t wear a title as a way to show who’s in charge, doesn’t think he’s better than everyone else, and acts in a way to care for others.  She may, in fact, pick up the trash or clean up a table.  Setting an example of service, the servant leader understands that it is not about the leader, but about others.


“Servant leaders act with humility.” -Skip Prichard



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