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Servant Leadership

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.
Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead…..

What is Servant Leadership?

The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, he said:

The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

Who is the Servant-Leader?

It is easy, especially these days, to look at the news and see many examples of who is not the servant-leader. Many corporations are failing today in our economy because of the greed and lust for power of the few at the top of the corporate hierarchy. In contrast, there are a growing number of entities that are embracing a very different approach to doing business; one that is gentler, kinder, and keeps people’s best interests at the forefront of their endeavors. Quoting Greenleaf again,

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? ……”


  • Listening receptively
  • Acceptance of (and empathy with) others
  • Foresight and intuition
  • Awareness and perception
  • Highly-developed powers of persuasion
  • Ability to conceptualize and communicate concepts
  • A healing influence upon people and institutions
  • Ability to build a sense of community in the workplace
  • Commitment to the growth of people
  • Willingness to change

“We must be silent
before we can listen.
We must listen
before we can learn.
We must learn
before we can prepare.
We must prepare
before we can serve.
We must serve
before we can lead.”
William Arthur Ward

“Servant Leadership is more that a concept. As far as I am concerned, it is a fact. I would simply define it by saying that any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself primarily as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”

M Scott Peck, in his book
‘The Road Less Traveled’

Servant Leader Values:

Servant-Leaders serve

Servant-Leaders lead

Servant-Leaders value the freedom and dignity of the individual

Servant-Leaders believe each individual is unique in the gifts, talents and abilities

Servant-Leaders grow others to wholeness and do the same for themselves

The Servant – Leadership Model presents some important concepts:

Servant-leadership is a practical philosophy, which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant- leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions.

Servant-leadership finds its fulfillment in the empowerment and improvement of others, while fulfilling the mission of the organization.

Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.

Servant-leadership departs from autocratic and hierarchical models, and is committed to the personal growth of individuals. This is not only beneficial to the individual, it results in an enhanced ability of the organization to accomplish its objectives.

Ann McGee-Cooper and Duane Trammell, in Focus on Leadership, defined Servant Leadership this way:

"Servant Leadership is not about a personal quest for power, prestige, or material rewards. Instead, from this perspective, leadership begins with a true motivation to serve others. Rather than controlling or wielding power, the servant-leader works to build a solid foundation or shared goals by (1) listening deeply to understand the needs and concerns of others; (2) working thoughtfully to help build a creative consensus; and (3) honoring the paradox of polarized parties and working to create ‘third right answers’ that rise above the compromise of ‘we/they’ negotiations. The focus of Servant Leadership is on sharing information, building a common vision, self-management, high levels of interdependence, learning from mistakes, encouraging creative input from every team member, and questioning present assumptions and mental models.

Stephen Covey, in his Foreword to Insights on Leadership, emphasized the competitive importance of servant leadership as it relates to the empowerment of employees. He said:

"The deepest part of human nature is that which urges people each one of us to rise above our present circumstances and to transcend our nature. If you can appeal to it, you tap into a whole new source of human motivation. Perhaps that is why I have found Robert Greenleaf’s teaching on Servant Leadership to be so enormously inspiring, so uplifting, so ennobling."

"A great movement is taking place throughout the world today. Its roots, I believe, are to be found in two powerful forces. One is the dramatic globalization of markets and technology. And in a very pragmatic way, this tidal wave of change is fueling the impact of the second force: timeless, universal principles that have governed, and always will govern, all enduring success, especially those principles that give ‘air’ and ‘life’ and creative power to the human spirit that produces value in markets, organizations, families, and, most significantly, individual’s lives."

"One of these fundamental, timeless principles is the idea of Servant Leadership, and I am convinced that it will continue to dramatically increase in its relevance….You’ve got to produce more for less, and with greater speed than you’ve ever done before. The only way you can do that in a sustained way is through the empowerment of people. And the only way you get empowerment is through high-trust cultures and through the empowerment philosophy that turns bosses into servants and coaches…"

"Leaders are learning that this kind of empowerment, which is what Servant Leadership represents, is one of the key principles that, based on practice, not talk, will be the deciding point between an organization’s enduring success or its eventual extinction."

"The most valuable 'currency' of any organization is the initiative and the creativity of its members. Every leader has the solemn moral responsibility to develop these to the maximum in all his people. This is the leader's highest priority."

W. Edwards Deming in Principle Centered Leadership

Why Servant Leadership?

It boils down to two things – excellence and distinction. Excellence is the result of putting people on the bottom line alongside the rest of the organization’s priorities. In the business realm, it means creating a double bottom line of people and profit. Corporations become stewards concerned with the well-being of the greater good, vs. owners who are only concerned with the rigors of “the leader of the pack” mentality. When the corporation cares about its people, makes investments in them, empowers them, removes their obstacles, and holds them accountable to the organization’s stewardship responsibilities vs. ownership responsibilities, the business blossoms and profits follow. Individual Employees succeed because they are happy, they enjoy their work, they are growing because they are challenged and cared for. When the Employees succeed, the business can’t help but succeed as its Clients and the marketplace swell from the increased value that the excellent company brings. And this is where distinction sets in.

Excellence is followed by distinction. Organizations have a fantastic opportunity today, right now, sitting on their doorsteps. Those who take it will garner distinction, the new level of success in our future economy. Our economy is currently ripe with the opportunities that implementing servant leadership will bring. People today are tired of the old way of doing business, the traditional “top-down”, single chief method of wielding power and control. With servant leadership and its benefits, organizations can set themselves apart from the competition by doing business in a more caring and sustainable fashion. These entities will be seen as true stewards of all that is entrusted to them, which will give them the capability to attract quality talent and in turn attract more Clients. This will be the distinctive way to do business, and those who are brave enough to take it on, persevere through the shifts, and stay true to a new vision will succeed in a greater way that they have not experienced before.

Classic and prominent examples of companies that have been very successful with servant leadership include Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Vanguard Group, TD Industries, and Men’s Warehouse.

Ken Blanchard in his Foreword to Focus on Leadership, said:

"I truly believe that Servant Leadership has never been more applicable to the world of leadership than it is today. Not only are people looking for a deeper purpose and meaning when they must meet the challenges of today's changing world; they are also looking for principles and philosophies that actually work. Servant Leadership works. Servant Leadership is about getting people to a higher level by leading people at a higher level."

How Do I Implement Servant Leadership?

Good question, and not an easy one to answer here on a website. Every organization has its unique situation and characteristics that must be taken into account. This means there is no predictable, one-size-fits-all solution with instruction manuals that can be handed to you. However, Pathways With Purpose, in conjunction with its Business Partner Let’s Coach, has developed a process called The Shift that is specific enough to include the stable, foundational building blocks that must be present, but also flexible enough to be molded to your organization’s unique set of criteria.

The Shift Implementation Process 

Over the course of 6-24 months (depending on size and goals), your organization will begin to experience an evolutionary shift from how it exists today. Our time working together may only last 12 months, for example, but you must be ready to enter into a journey that has no destination. Implementing servant leadership is a process, not a project. As such, you must be ready to embrace the constant of evolutionary change, for as you persevere and continue to evolve, your success should foster an increasing investment of effort and loyalty from the people your organization touches. This in turn will nudge you to keep stretching and growing as your care for them increases and the bar for distinction keeps rising.

Shifting to a servant leadership paradigm needs to occur across all the levels of your organization. We focus in the beginning on the individuals, your Employees, who are the pillars of your service or product. Coaching is the tool of choice, in the form of both individual and team. We will coach Trustees, Executives, Team Leaders, and front-line Employees. We will use a myriad of tools to establish baselines for individuals and teams, and we will track their progress for you so you can see the growth. You will begin to shift the ways you get work done, including a transformation from managing/supervising people to leading people. Some concrete examples could be shifts in job descriptions, how wage increases occur, reporting hierarchy, Employee evaluations, and the actual product/service delivery. As traditional, hierarchical walls are torn down or modified, more thinkers will be empowered to come forward and be given the opportunity to enhance their own responsibilities, their team’s role, and the overall organization’s value.

How we do it:

The Shift Process will facilitate your company from the executive leadership level through each level of staffing teams.

The three primary phases of The Shift are:

  • Clarify: Discovery and Awareness
  • Connect: Identify and Overcome
  • Create: Environment of growth

Together we will:

  • Clarify:  Discovery of self and others, awareness of the differences, and acknowledge- ment of strengths and weaknesses done through CORE assessments and facilitations
  • Connect Identification of current challenges and how to overcome them through proper communication and relationship development within the team (community).
  • Create: An environment that empowers each individual to be healthy, freer and continually seeking to grow and expand their knowledge and contribution to the organization. The focus is on defining the Essence of the Servant Leader and engaging the 10 Characteristics that comprise one along with establishing Greenleaf’s practice of a First Among Equals team structure.


The Individual Employee
CORE and Coaching
Self-awareness, Development Plan
The Business Unit (Team)
Individual Coaching Both Manager / Supervisor and Employees
Healthy relationships, communicaion, and collaboration

The Servant Leader

The Primus Council

Study, Coaching from the Development Plan

Study, individual and group coaching

A new working environment that fosters and supports the servant first in individuals and the "first among equals" principle within teams.

For more information on servant leadership, The Shift, and how it could help your organization, please call us at 321-439-4410.

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