Over the past decade or so, this word has been captivating our imagination. People utter this word in the same breath as they say Agile transformation. So, what exactly is servant leadership? I will attempt to cover a few aspects of it below.

Leadership can be broadly categorized into two sections

  • Self-serving
  • Serving others

The first type of leadership is all about “what’s in it for me?” This is presented in as many ways possible in the day to day interaction with team members. The goal of this leadership type is to have a team or set of individuals follow the objectives of the leader.

The second type of leadership is serving others. This is what a ‘Servant Leader’ is.  He/she is someone who puts others’ interests first. They are available at a moment’s notice anytime, any day and selflessly help achieve the team’s goals and objectives.

Out of the many definitions, servant leadership is explained as:

“Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world”.

– Robert K Greenleaf (Servant as a leader)

In any organizational setup, every team, every individual should be aligned to answer the questions on their existence and purpose. Meaning, asking about the ‘why’ of the work they are accomplishing, and the value they bring in their role in the larger context of an organization.

In the book Drive by Daniel Pink, autonomy and purpose are defined as intrinsic motivators. Leaders should play a part in guiding the team to realize their autonomy and purpose. This will have a positive impact on the organization.

Every organization has a clear purpose and vision on where it is headed. there is a drive for individuality and uniqueness. And, how will any company strive for this uniqueness? It is the people who make that company. It’s imperative that every single individual is aligned to that unique vision of the company.

Who helps us individuals get that vision? Who directs us to a way of thinking? It’s the leaders. They have the vantage point of being bi-directional. What do I mean by that? At one end they have the vision to steer the company to great heights and on the other end they guide the team from the trenches. This is where Servant Leaders play a key role. They help envision where the company is headed by aligning the teams to that vision. Once the teams are aligned, Servant Leaders will serve the teams so that teams are empowered to move towards that vision. We will try to cover how the servant leaders help teams in the next article.


Foot notes

Drive- surprising truth on what motivates us by Daniel Pink


Servant Leadership



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