What Is the Servant Leader Model? And How to Apply It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 2, 2022

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Those who want to improve their management style may wonder about the definition of a servant leader. This leadership style focuses on providing your coworkers and team members with additional freedom. By using this leadership style, you can increase overall productivity and organizational culture. In this article, we discuss the definition of a servant leader, provide information about the differences between servant and traditional leaders, discuss how to be an effective leader, and discuss the benefits of this leadership style.

What is a servant leader?

A servant leader is someone who strives to empower people, shares resources, and takes responsibility for others. The philosophy uses four underlying values, which are humility, empathy, compassion, and courage. These values are essential for strong leaders because they promote freedom in the workplace and accommodate those around them.

Servant leadership assumes that effective leaders serve their teams and colleagues. This requires significant empathy and consideration of their colleagues' goals. For example, this type of leader may complete tasks for any colleagues who need help. These leaders listen actively to their coworkers to identify areas of improvement and where they can help.

Traditional leadership vs. servant leadership

Both leadership styles use different strategies and have radically different results. In a traditional leadership style, the leader provides individuals with guidance and direction to help them execute their duties. A traditional leader's major purpose is to grow the firm's or organization's market position. These leaders also consider those around them, their team members, and their supervisors. This leader ensures that experience success in their career, knowledge, independence, and health.

Many people feel that if leaders change their attention from the firm to the team, they develop more competent, creative, intelligent, and committed individuals who help to improve the company's core operations and management.

How to demonstrate effective servant leadership

Here is a guide to help you become an effective leader:

1. Be a good listener

Successful leaders don't command, they listen to their employees. They provide adequate opportunity to hear views from all team members, and they pay close attention to their thoughts and opinions. You can identify your growth opportunities by gathering views and insight from your team members.

2. Shows empathy

Excellent leaders care about their employees. They recognize that when their employees feel happy and fulfilled in their personal lives, which may translate to professional success. As a result, these leaders prioritize showing their team members they care about them and attempting to assist them with concerns wherever possible.

3. Solve your team problems

Excellent leaders see the need to resolve earlier issues before moving on to new objectives and projects. For example, if a team dispute leads to a missed deadline, a servant leader focuses on working with the team to address any challenges to improve collaboration in the future. Before confronting the new challenges, the leader finds it important that the team mends any issues and supports them in discussing how to improve as a group.

Related: How to Be an Inspiring Leader in Six Steps (With Traits)

4. Be aware of the team's abilities

Effective leaders are self-aware of their abilities and those of their teams. Be ready to embrace and develop your skills to be self-aware. It's also critical for you, as the leader, to be aware of your team's particular talents and weaknesses to assist them in growing and learning.

Related: 14 Great Questions to Ask Leaders for Career Growth

5. Be persuasive

Effective leaders convince and lead their team members. While a dictatorial leader can tell his or her staff what to do, this leader explains why the approach or procedure is the best. They want to persuade the entire team to see the value in their decision and agree.

Related: What Is Autocratic Leadership?

6. Be able to conceptualize

Conceptualization is a term used to describe a leader's ability to consider a situation from several perspectives. Such a leader can show conceptualization by going beyond the facts and details of a situation and creating a broader picture that involves a variety of people and factors. Effective leaders can convey greater goals and why they're essential to their people by thinking beyond minor tasks. They develop a vision and mission to give the entire team a feeling of direction.

Related: The 10 Leadership Roles of a Great Manager

7. Consider the future

When you want to implement this leadership style, you can also consider the future and the implication of events. Effective leaders recognize the value of learning from past mistakes and accomplishments and applying what they've learned to make better decisions in the future. They also assist their teammates in doing the same.

8. Demonstrate strong leadership

Effective leaders understand the importance of displaying their leadership through communication and delegation of tasks. When issues arise, strong leaders assume responsibility for errors. In this sense, they act as protective barriers for their team. If you want to demonstrate servant leadership, you can show reliability at work and build trust with your colleagues.

9. Show commitment

Effective servant leadership inspires growth in their employees. Their dedication to assisting their teams in their career development. By setting an example and giving opportunities for their team to learn and develop, leaders assist their team members in becoming exceptional leaders.

10. Build a community

Servant leadership promotes collaboration and involvement. These leaders value the views of everyone on their team and encourage them to take part in group activities regularly. For example, a leader can use social events, such as team-building activities, to create a community among the team and improve their ability to collaborate.

What are the benefits of servant leadership?

The servant leadership model comes with the following benefits:

1. Improved collaboration

Once employees see their leaders as role models, they typically embrace the concept of service to colleagues. They abandon ineffective actions motivated by politics or a need for recognition, and they collaborate more effectively. Better collaboration leads to more communication, increased productivity, and shared success.

2. Positive organizational culture

Workplace interactions contribute significantly to the overall company culture. When team members work together and help each other with the overall development, the organizational culture typically experiences a positive change. This culture encourages employees and team members to express themselves, discuss their ideas, and deliver projects depending on their deadlines. Here are some ideas for improving organizational culture:

Embrace transparency

You can demonstrate transparency by discussing clear guidelines for projects and tasks. Consider potential obstacles and relay this information to colleagues. You can also discuss potential solutions to these issues. This helps to build trust among colleagues and encourages collaboration.

Discuss accomplishments

You can improve company culture by discussing the successes of those around you. To do this, consider writing notes when you observe your colleagues' accomplishments. You can choose a day in the week to send an email to the office to celebrate the team's notable achievements, or you can recognize them as they occur.

Provide rewards

Developing a positive organizational culture also occurs when you reward accomplishments or hard work. You can do this by buying lunch for your team members that perform well. Alternatively, those in management positions can congratulate team members by providing them with incentives like bonuses or other motivating awards.

Promote autonomy

Team members who have laissez-faire leaders, or leaders who prioritize freedom in the workplace, experience improved wellbeing. This occurs because they have more control over their work and can arrange their schedule depending on their needs. Promoting autonomy improves trust between team members and management.

3. Improved employee dedication

Empowering employees under the servant leadership paradigm leads to the feeling of purpose and belonging. This aligns the company's ultimate mission to the employee's feeling of belonging, ensuring more productivity. When a leader encourages diversity and individual strengths, employees feel more capable of realizing their potential and creativity. As a result, employee engagement improves, leading to lower turnover rates and greater team loyalty.

4. Improved organizational flexibility

Servant leaders contribute to organizational flexibility by encouraging their team members to demonstrate flexibility. Organizations that have multiple flexible leaders experience flexibility across teams. This flexibility also occurs because team members have increased knowledge of their resources and tools. They can use these resources to adapt quickly to obstacles and changes.

5. Encouraged sense of belonging

These leaders encourage belonging within the workplace by creating career advancement opportunities and encouraging friendships at work. When leadership sees employees as individuals and highlights the importance of their contribution to the task, they feel appreciated, recognized, and respected. It's critical to foster a sense of belonging to achieve the company goals. This subsequently improves their productivity and increases the enjoyment they experience at work.

6. Encouraged learning and development

Development is a beneficial goal of any employee and organization. When the leader makes it a point to grow and empower their team, employees learn effectively and have more opportunities to develop their skills and advance their careers. The company also achieves growth and maintains loyal employees, as the concept encourages ownership and accountability.

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