7 Characteristics of Servant Leaders


Servant Leadership might be one of the buzziest buzz words out there. Listen to any speaker on the topic, read any book or article about positive leaders and they all relate to the idea that a great leader does not strike fear in their followers but rather inspires them. What few if any sources provide, however, is any sort of guidelines for developing into a Servant Leader or characteristics to look for in a servant leader. This is long overdue, but I was inspired a few months back by a speaker from the Greenleaf Center who provided such an outline for servant leadership. Using his list and a few ideas of my own, I came up with the following.


This one might be the most confusing of the list so let’s get it out of the way early. While much of servant leadership is focused on the followers not the leader, it is simply impossible to lead– in any fashion– without understanding yourself and for what it is you stand. Having this knowledge gives you a sense of purpose and shows confidence to those you wish to inspire. Your followers can then rally behind your values and take them as their own to create the cohesive team you are working toward.


If you didn’t think this was going to be on here you probably have never read or even heard of servant leadership. A great leader always listens to the team they have around them and thrives on feedback from outer counsel. Listening creates trust and respect but also improves the unit. Ideas start flowing. Conversations elaborate.  Next thing you know, you have accomplished something great. Two ears, one mouth–you get the picture. Of course, this does not mean that you should not do any talking. Asking questions is the best way to illicit opinions from your team.

Changing the Pyramid

Countless incredible organizations were born and subsequently thrived with a few strong leaders at the top barking orders and strategy down through the corporate hierarchy. Looking to the future, however, organizations must change their focus from top down to bottom up. Focusing on those that you as a leader serve creates the best environment for everyone and inspires the best work from the team.

Develop Your Colleagues

You as a leader of an organization cannot grow said organization unless your team grows in either size or ability. Allow those you serve to become masters of their craft in any way that you know how. It will only benefit you when they grow. Who knows, maybe you will learn a few things along the way as well.

Coaching not Controlling

Never. Never. Never micromanage your team. Did I mention never? This is the fastest way to kill a collaborative and healthy environment. By coaching and providing those you serve with the tools they need to grow and develop, they will deliver the best results for you and the organization.

Unleash the Talent/Potential of Others

Along with coaching over controlling, comes inspiring others to reach their true potential. Have your team set goals for themselves, the company, the team, and even for you. This will give them a stake in what is going on with the organization and hold everyone accountable for the success of the team. Reward them for what they do well and recognize everyone for the success of the group but don’t forget that those you serve have a life outside of work as well. Let them be successful there too.


Last but certainly not least is foresight. This is the one not exclusive to a servant leader. Leaders are innovative and creative. They see what is next and they adapt themselves, the team, their company, and their product. Never let your vision become dull or unclear. Never let it be set in stone though either. Let it change as the world does but please don’t lose yourself and your values.