Becoming a Leader Today – Manifesto for a Servant Leader

In his essay The Servant as Leader, Robert Greenleaf said of 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. 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.”

Larry C. Spears, who has served as President and CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center  for Servant Leadership since 1990 determined 10 characteristics that are central to the development of a servant leader:

  • Listening: A servant leader wants to listen to others and supports them in wanting to communicate.  This means in particular paying attention to what is unspoken. The servant leader relies on the inner voice and finding out what the body, mind and spirit are communicating.
  • Empathy: A servant leader wants to understand and empathize with others.  Those the leader works with are recognised, respected and appreciated for their personal development. As a result, leadership is seen as a special type of human work that invests in others which in turn leads to advantage for the organization.
  • Healing: A great strength of a servant leader is the ability to heal themselves and others. A servant leader tries to help people solve their problems and resolve conflicts in relationships as they develop their skills. This leads to a working environment which is dynamic and fun without fear of failure.
  • Awareness: A servant leader needs self awareness and a more general awareness of others with an integrated, holistic approach that includes ethics and values.
  • Persuasion: A Servant Leader does not coerce or threaten but tries to convince. This distinguishes servant leadership most clearly from traditional, authoritarian models and can be traced back to the religious views of Robert Greenleaf himself.
  • Conceptualization: A servant leader can see beyond the immediate for the organization  and its day to day operations  A Leader constructs a vision of the future than be developed into goals and  strategies for implementation
  • Foresight The leader needs the ability to foresee the likely outcome of a situation.  The servant leader should learn from the past to understand the present and identify consequences for the future.  This requires the leader to be blessed with good judgment!
  • StewardshipThe servant leader holds the organization in trust for those with an interest in it and for the wider society.  The servant leadership understands the wider obligation to help and serve others. Openness and persuasion are more important than control.
  • Commitment to the growth of people: A servant leader nurtures the personal, professional and spiritual growth of employees and involves them in decisions about the future of the organization
  • Building community: A servant leader builds a strong community within his organization and is committed to contributing to the wider community beyond.

I would welcome you views on the servant leader and your experiences. Have you encountered a true servant leader to whom you would like to pay tribute?

I am Wendy Mason and I work as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger.  I have worked with many different kinds of people going through personal  and career change. If you would like my help, please email me at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439.  I will be very pleased to hear from you.