To Lead is to Serve…Characteristics of a Servant Leader – Part 5

Welcome to the sixth blog in our Servant Leadership blog series, To Lead is To Serve! The first five blogs in this series are listed below:

  1. To Lead is to Serve…A Leadership Mantra
  2. To Lead is to Serve…Characteristics of a Servant Leader – Part 1
  3. To Lead is to Serve…Characteristics of a Servant Leader – Part 2
  4. To Lead is to Serve…Characteristics of a Servant Leader – Part 3
  5. To Lead is to Serve…Characteristics of a Servant Leader – Part 4
In this blog series, we are learning about the ten characteristics of servant leaders created by Larry Spears based on the writings of Robert Greenleaf. In our previous posts, we’ve explored eight skills that set servant leaders apart: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, and stewardship. Today we will explore the final two characteristics that servant leaders possess: commitment to the growth of people and building community.
9. Commitment to the growth of people

As a servant leader, you have an inherent belief in human potential, and thus you have a steadfast commitment to the growth of each person you lead. I sincerely believe that this is one of the characteristics that sets the best leaders apart. Along with recognizing your commitment to the growth of others, you know that you must continuously invest in your own growth. You develop goals focused on growth, always recognizing that “the enemy of growing is knowing.”  

Larry Spears tells us that the “servant leader recognizes the tremendous responsibility to do everything within his or her power to nurture the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of employees.” This translates to investing in people; these investments involve both time and money. Spend time listening to your people; take the time to understand what matters to them. Ask them about their dreams and goals, and seek to learn about how they want to grow both personally and professionally. Offer a variety of professional development opportunities based on what you’ve learned from your team. Servant leaders know that learning isn’t something that just happens once a year at a conference or training workshop; it is an ongoing investment. After all, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” as John F. Kennedy so eloquently said.
10. Building community

You seek to bring people together, to help them create a meaningful community. You know that community is created when you exhibit your full potential as a servant leader and put into practice the other nine characteristics we’ve highlighted in this blog series. Robert Greenleaf, the father of servant leadership, said, “All that is needed to rebuild community as a viable life form for large numbers of people is for enough servant leaders to show the way.” Are you showing the way?

One of my favorite quotes about community building comes from social activist Dorothy Day, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” I’m a stronger believer that business and love coexist, and Greenleaf has laid out how: servant leaders are called to build community. As a servant leader, you care deeply about people, and you want to bring them together for a common purpose, to achieve greatness together. For more, read this blog post about a company that has love has one of its core values. 
Reflection Questions:
  • How have you invested in the growth of your people? Can you think of examples of your investments of both time and money in those who follow you?
  • Are you committed to your own growth? Do you have a plan for your personal and professional development?
  • In what ways are you building a community at work? How about at home? 
  • How do you bring your team together at work? How do you motivate them to achieve their full potential as a team?
  • Will you accept Robert Greenleaf’s challenge to be a servant leader who shows the way?
Stay tuned for the final blog in our “To Lead is To Serve” series, where we will wrap up and leave you with some closing thoughts to ponder. Have a great day!

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