Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy that emphasizes the importance of serving others and prioritizing the needs of the team members and organization. The term was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay “The Servant as Leader.” Servant leaders focus on empowering, supporting, and developing their team members, fostering an environment of collaboration, trust, and mutual respect.
Key characteristics of servant leadership include:
- Empathy: Servant leaders genuinely care about their team members and strive to understand their needs, feelings, and perspectives. They treat each individual with respect and work to create an inclusive environment.
- Listening: Effective servant leaders actively listen to their team members, valuing their input and feedback. They encourage open communication and create an environment where everyone feels heard and respected.
- Stewardship: Servant leaders take responsibility for the well-being of their team members and the organization as a whole. They work to create a sustainable and healthy work environment that supports long-term success.
- Focusing on growth and development: Servant leaders prioritize the personal and professional growth of their team members, providing resources, training, and opportunities for development. They encourage continuous learning and improvement.
- Building community: Servant leaders foster a sense of community and belonging within the team, promoting collaboration, shared values, and a sense of purpose.
- Humility: Servant leaders are humble and self-aware, recognizing that they are not infallible and that they can learn from others. They are open to feedback and are willing to adapt and change when necessary.
- Service to others: The primary focus of a servant leader is to serve the needs of others, rather than pursuing personal power or recognition. They put the well-being and success of their team members and the organization above their own interests.
- Persuasion: Servant leaders rely on persuasion rather than coercion or authority to influence others. They build consensus and motivate their team members through shared vision and goals.
- Foresight: Servant leaders possess the ability to anticipate future needs and challenges, making decisions that consider both short-term and long-term consequences.
- Commitment to the greater good: Servant leaders consider the broader implications of their actions, focusing on creating value and positive outcomes for all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the community.
Servant leadership is particularly relevant in Agile environments, where the emphasis is on empowering self-organizing teams, fostering collaboration, and enabling continuous improvement. Scrum Masters, for example, often embody servant leadership principles as they work to support and facilitate their teams’ success.