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How to Become a Servant Leader

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

As a leader, do you strive for power or authority? Do you know the difference?

Power is the ability to force or coerce someone to do your will, because of your position or might.

Authority is the skill of getting people to willingly do your will because of your personal influence. Authority can not be bought or sold, given or taken away. Authority is about the person you are, your character, and the influence you've built with those around you.

Practicing servant leadership is the most effective way to lead with authority instead of power. If you're ready to become a better servant leader, in life or in business, you're in the right place.

What is Servant Leadership?

The term Servant Leadership was coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf, but it's been practiced since the beginning of time. According to Greenleaf, as a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – meaning you focus on the needs of others, before you focus on your own. 

The premise is simple: To lead you must serve.

But it also goes a bit deeper than that. Servant leadership takes the traditional leadership hierarchy and flips it on its head.

In the traditional hierarchy, business leaders often find themselves doing whatever they need to serve their boss – whoever is above them in the hierarchy.

This is often because they see meeting the needs and requirements of their boss as a clear path to their own growth. So the workers are worried about impressing management and management is focused on impressing their director, while the directors look to their chief and the chief does the same with the CEO.

In the traditional model, everyone is so focused on looking up to the vision and leadership of the CEO that the workers and customer are often overlooked. Decisions are made from so high up that once they trickle down to the workers they often don't even solve the actual problem at hand, or are not actually the best solution.

How many times have you heard "So and so made this decision, but he's so far from it, he has no idea what we really need" – it plays out in big corporations daily.

So now let's flip the script.

In the Servant Leadership model, leaders are focused on serving the needs of the people they lead, and so the traditional triangle ends up flipped, like this:

Now remember, being a servant leader does not mean just giving people under you what they want so that they like you. Instead, it's about giving people what they need, and what they deserve.

Slaves do what others want, servants do what others need.

In fact, being a servant leader is not as easy as it may sound...

Being a servant leader means having difficult conversations. It means pushing people out of their comfort zones. It means pushing YOURSELF out of your comfort zone.

It means standing up for what is right even when everyone else in the room is quiet.

Servant leadership is telling someone on your team that they have things to work on...but because you know what they're capable of, you're going to work on it TOGETHER.

It can mean promoting people up, but it can also mean letting people go.

Servant leadership means listening more than you speak. It means helping others find the right answers within themselves instead of giving it to them.

It means teaching others to fish instead of saving time by doing things for them.

How Can You Become a Better Servant Leader?

Become a better servant leader by adopting these servant leadership principles:

  • Work alongside your team

  • Lead by example

  • Listen to understand

  • Build a relationship

  • Gain and give trust

  • Do what is right (always)

Work alongside your team. Get down in the trenches so you truly understand their world.

Show them first, train them second, watch them third, follow them fourth.

Lead by example. Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. If you tell them not to gossip or talk negatively you shouldn't either. If you ask them to think deeper, you should too. If you ask them to do hard things, show them you can too.

Listen to understand. Listen more than you speak. Ask questions to understand, not to prove your own point. Put yourselves in their shoes. Think back to when you were in their position. Be empathetic, not sympathetic.

Build a relationship. A real relationship. Care about more than the numbers and work. Ask them about their family, know their dog's name. Learn what makes them tick. Take time to discover what motivates them. Use what you lean to help them grow.

Build trust. And when I say that I mean, gain their trust, but also give them yours. Make it apparent. Without trust there is no team, and no real growth.

Do what is right (always). Servant leadership simply means doing the right thing, even when it's the hard thing. Trust your gut, it's usually right.

These are some simple principles you can practice daily to become a better servant leader.

But remember, simple does not mean easy.

Adopting these principles often calls for a mindset shift and lifestyle change. These are new habits you need to build.

The good news is you can receive coaching and mentorship to help you adopt these principles and build those habits.

Servant Leadership Coaching from Servant Marketing Co.

I offer servant leadership coaching and mentorship through Servant Marketing Co.

The coaching program will help you and your team develop dynamic servant leadership skills that will transform your life and take your business to the next level.

The coaching program begins with leadership training and then we meet regularly to check in, ensure you're building good habits, and talk through any issues or scenarios.

I offer one-on-one mentorship or group coaching.

We can meet weekly or monthly, or quarterly – whatever meets your needs.

This can be done virtually, or in person (depending on location and feasibility).

If you're interested in learning more about our Servant Leadership Coaching Program please submit the contact form on our services page.

I look forward to hearing from you and how I can help you think differently about your leadership strategy and help take your life or business to the next level.

To our growth,


Sasha Canady

Servant Marketing Co.

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