What’s Servant Leadership?

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Servant leadership is a management philosophy where leaders act as servants to their employees, empowering them through ethical treatment. This approach involves meeting the needs of employees and performing acts of selflessness, leading to a more motivated and satisfied workforce. The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership offers resources for managers to learn more about this approach, which is used by hundreds of companies in the US and Europe.

Servant leadership is a business philosophy in which managers and others in positions of authority strive to act as servants to those who report to them. Those who adhere to the philosophy believe that they can improve their overall business by empowering their employees through this management style. The modern servant leadership movement was founded by Robert K. Greenleaf and is based on an essay he originally published in 1970. The philosophy can be applied by a manager as an individual or it can be implemented company-wide by an entire institution. Servant leaders believe that, through ethical treatment, their employees will strive to become leaders, thereby improving the quality of the workforce and the company itself.

This leadership style usually involves trying to meet the needs of employees or members of a manager’s organization. For example, a manager can get to know an employee better to learn what that individual’s goals are in the company. If the employee is looking to advance his or her career and shares that with the manager, he or she will provide encouragement, resources, and additional training to accomplish those goals. This method serves to motivate the employee to work harder for the company. The servant leadership philosophy runs counter to what Robert Greenleaf saw as a disrespectful and authoritarian mindset in corporate managers in the mid-20th century. Greenleaf taught that servant leaders should train their employees rather than control them.

Servant leadership traits include serving employees and performing acts of selflessness in the workplace. By employing empathy and effective listening skills, leaders who employ this philosophy are often able to assess the needs of their subordinates. They can act on those needs, which in turn often leads to employees feeling more empowered and confident in their abilities. It can also contribute to overall workplace satisfaction because it often helps employees see their role in the company more clearly, rather than feeling like they are “just a number”.

Managers can learn more about server leadership through books and seminars. The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, which was founded by the founder of the movement, offers conferences and seminars for people in managerial positions. The philosophy is often applied in disciplines outside of the business world, such as non-profit organizations, and within the educational field. Courses on the concept are often included in university business degrees. It is estimated that hundreds of companies in the United States and Europe use the method to facilitate better employee-manager relations.

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