What You Should Know About Servant Leadership Theory

Enriching lives, building better organisations - this is servant leadership. Erblina Rashiti talks us through this concept.

A few years ago, being a boss automatically gave you some kind of a good reputation right? We think of bosses as great leaders, regardless of how they really are as human beings. Right or wrong – we think, they know best!

Well, to our surprise, being a boss does not mean you’re a good leader also. Let us dig a little deeper into this and understand its meaning. 

I learned about good leadership during a summer camp, as a friend of mine spoke and elaborated on what he called the “Servant leadership” programme.

Servant leadership was a new concept to me, it is still new to young people, let alone to our parents or older members of the family. Robert K. Greenleaf,  a very successful researcher was the first person to ever bring this new concept of a servant leader together, in an essay in 1970 called The Servant As A Leader

According to the Center for Servant Leadership, Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that “enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organisations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring world”.

Greenleaf, in his book Servant Leadership: A Journey Into The Nature Of Legitimate Power And Greatness, explains further this new concept and also highlights some characteristics of servant leaders such as: listening, empathy, healing, persuasion, awareness, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. 

Characteristics that enrich people’s lives and build a better, healthy, and caring community. 

Servant leaders have a different approach to leadership. They take the traditional leading model and turn it upside down. 

This new and modern hierarchy is entirely concentrated in their employees. Putting them at the top as a priority. As they should be! 

The focus of servant leaders is to uplift those who work around them and to empower them. In this case, these sorts of leaders are actually serving themselves and not bossing around, showing needless authority. 

Opposite to that, when you are a servant leader, you have to let go of a selfish mindset. This is why, if you are aiming to be a successful and servant leader, here is what you should do:

Create A Safe Space And A Culture Of Trust

The hardest thing to gain is trust, and it can easily break! How do you earn it? 

By clearly elaborating the mission of the company, its priorities, and values. Be a down-to-earth person, and be transparent. 

As cliche as this may sound, I am still going to say it! Think outside the box, exchange ideas with your staff, collaborate collectively, make important decisions together. One person is never enough to get an engine going. If everyone gives an active contribution to the company, the results will be highly productive. 



Listen and try to understand the people you are working with. Pay attention to them, notice their mood changes or body language. 

Never interrupt them while they are speaking and always give feedback on what they say. 


Grow Together And Build A Community

Show value to every person working with you. It is extremely important that you support their growth and development. 

By helping each other, even their performance gets better. Make everyone feel valued. Try hosting team-building activities, retreats, hiking activities. 



Another very important characteristic is the ‘healing’ process. In order for the team to perform well, everyone needs to be in good health mentally and physically. 

Make sure their emotional baggage is taken care of. May it be healing by communicating with people, or team-building activities. 

You may be surprised how a lot of companies such as Balfour Beatty, The Container Store, Marriott International, Starbucks, Nordstrom’s are actually embracing this servant leadership theory and actually worked for them and their team. 

After all, as John Maxwell said: “A leader without followers, it’s just someone taking a walk.”

Hear more from Erblina here:

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