For people unfamiliar with Servant Leadership, the first question often asked is, “What is it?”

First, let me emphasize that the term is a combination of two different words – servant and leader. Sometimes the term is spelled with a space between the two words, and others spell it with a hyphen between the two words to add clarity, and show the term as a single entity.

Someone once told me they seem like a contradiction in terms. Let’s look at each of these two words independently for a minute.

We all have a pre-conceived meaning of words when we encounter them. What do you picture in your mind when you think of a servant?

What you picture in your mind may be due to the negative influence of your culture. You may think of an individual who is subordinate to others, or submissive, or abused or lacking of respect. Here is a better definition. A servant is a person who is employed to serve and care for the needs of others.

Now let’s think about the second word in this term “Servant-Leadership.” When people think of leaders they often picture in their minds someone who is a “boss,” or at the “top of the organization,” or powerful, or someone “in charge” of others.

Some might say a leader is someone who gets special privileges, or has prestige, or is considered important. The mental image we have of “leaders” is the result of both our autocratic and celebrity-oriented culture.

Here is a better definition. “Leadership is the process of social influence used to maximize the efforts of others, and motivate a group of people to act toward achieving a common objective or goal.”

Putting the right balanced aspects of these two words together gives us a sound definition of what a Servant-Leader actually is. So here it is… Servant Leadership is a human leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve others.

A servant leader shares decision-making and power. They place the well-being of employees first and they help people develop and perform as highly as possible.

So in a nutshell, here are some of the common behaviors of a Servant-Leader.

Behavior as a Servant

Stewardship: The careful and responsible management of employees and resources entrusted to one’s care.

Active Listening: The skill of engaging closely with what another person is saying and with understanding and respectful behavior.

Empathy: The ability to share and deeply understand the feelings of another.

Learner: One who is open to gaining knowledge, information, comprehension, or skill.

Problem-Solver: The process of defining a problem, determining its cause, and implementing a solution.

Service Over Self-Interest: One who upholds what is best for others, even if it may not be in his or her own interest to do so.

Provides Necessary Resources: A leader who offers money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn upon in order to function effectively.

Behavior as a Leader

Principle-Centered: This is leading with principles and proven values, rather than managing by a rule-based policy.

Win/Win Paradigm: Seeking solutions that are advantageous or satisfactory to all parties involved.

Responsible: Having an obligation to do something, accepting control over events, or care for someone.

Accountable: Obligated to explain, justify, and be responsible for your actions.

Respectful: Showing politeness, thoughtfulness, or deference to others.

Teacher: One who helps others to gain knowledge, competence, and cooperation in a culture of active learning.

Persuasive: A leader who can motivate other people to change their attitudes or behaviors regarding an idea or issue in an atmosphere of free choice.

Hopefully this video helps you better understand servant leadership, and how it can benefit you at home, in your community, and within your organization.

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