To Lead is to Serve…Characteristics of a Servant Leader – Part 1

I began this blog series about servant leadership by sharing my own leadership mantra:

To lead is to serve.
To serve is to lead.

Click here to read the first post in this blog series.
Servant leadership isn’t a new concept. Its earliest roots can be found in religious texts from many world religions. The modern understanding of servant leadership comes from Robert Greenleaf, who is often called “the father of servant leadership.” The Center for Servant Leadership at the Pastoral Institute in Georgia defines servant leadership as “a lifelong journey that includes discovery of one’s self, a desire to serve others, and a commitment to lead.”

Servant leadership resonates with us at SOS Leadership because it aligns with our mission of “developing leaders that make a difference.” Servant leaders exhibit a steadfast commitment to making a difference, to leaving this world better than they found it. Servant leaders also seek to enhance the growth of all individuals who follow them. In an organizational context, this means that they are eager to invest in staff at all levels, recognizing the value of both personal and professional development. Servant leaders also understand that the “enemy of growing is knowing,” and they are constantly looking for opportunities to learn and grow.

Larry Spears, who served for 17 years as the head of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, created a set of 10 characteristics of servant leaders after carefully studying Robert Greenleaf’s original writings. These characteristics include: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community.

As this blog series continues, we will explore each of these characteristics of servant leadership and challenge ourselves with tough questions about our own leadership. Stay tuned!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you define servant leadership?
  • Is there a leader in your life who models servant leadership for you? What do you respect and admire most about this leader?

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