Author: Derek A. Murray | Director of Professional Services
Humility is a gamechanger in the workplace. We all know the bosses who won’t be bothered to give their employees a hand. To them, “service” might as well be a four-letter word. But the reality is, workplace culture (and boss-employee relationships) improves when leaders serve.
Servant leadership is a concept that dates back nearly two thousand years and is still relevant today especially helpful in organizational settings. Here’s a quick primer on what servant leadership looks like and how it is compatible with other religions and philosophies.
This Is Servant Leadership
Word order is significant for understanding servant leadership: Before they decide to lead, servant leaders choose to serve (Grand Canyon University, 2014). In other words, they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty—in fact, if they see a mess, they’ll be the first ones to start cleaning it up.
Servant leaders are also tuned into their employees. Rather than having a single-minded focus on the work that needs to be done, servant leaders pay attention to the needs of their employees. “Servant leaders make it a priority to listen to their followers and develop strong long-term relationships with them” (Northouse, 2013, p. 233).
In a workplace setting, these strong relationships can lead to greater success and job satisfaction. By tuning into their employees, servant leaders can make processes run more smoothly by learning about and removing obstacles. At the same time, their employees will feel validated because their boss took the time to listen to them, which can result in greater productivity and engagement on the job.
When servant leaders put people first, it creates an atmosphere and culture of confidence, esteem, dignity, and respect.
Servant Leadership Across Religions and Philosophies
When you think of names like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harriet Tubman, it is not hard to see the principles of servant leadership at work in their lives. They all had this in common: the desire to serve others at the expense of their own needs and desires.
Many religions and philosophical theories are looking for ways to help people achieve their potential in their daily lives. Servant leadership depends on having the vision to see people be successful and do great things with their lives. Servant leadership seeks to help the overlooked and downtrodden, and servant leaders can see beyond their own needs to the needs of those they are leading.
Servant leadership requires being genuine and honest. Leaders must be truthful about the reason they want to serve others. Is it for notoriety or recognition?
A leader must be selfless and walk in humility in order to be a servant leader.
What kind of leader are you?
Blanchard, K. (2010). Leading at a higher level. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bowman, R. F. (2005). Teacher as Servant Leader. Clearing House, 78(6), 257-259.
Grand Canyon University (2014). Module 5 Lecture Notes. LDR-600 Lecture 5
New King James Version (NKJV). Retrieved from: www.youversion.com
Northouse. P. G. (2013). Leadership theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.