Servant Leadership, Its Features and Nature


For many people, the word “leader” evokes a picture of a person with formal power. They are at the top of the organizational chart, and people follow them immaculately out of a commitment to avoid unfavorable consequences. In some workplaces, this classic idea of leadership is still a benchmark. However, many other businesses and organizations like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines take a different, more favorable strategy to lead others (Ragnarsson et al., 2018). It is called servant leadership, and it is a new essential way to operate for the development of team morale and engagement.

Paradoxical Nature of Servant Leadership

The paradox of this strategy is that the leader must become, in a sense, the “servant” of his subordinate. This practice involves the leader’s wish to meet the essentials of his team generously and selflessly, and they feel supported, motivated, and self-fulfilling. Employees achieve both team and personal goals (Saleem et al., 2020). Many managers still do not fully comprehend the strength of this strategy and consider it unproductive in terms of maintaining discipline. It might look paradoxical and challenging to implement in practice. However, many organizations, such as the famous Marriott hotel chain, have proven effective. Originator Bill Marriott has always underlined a culture of service and a focus on team spirit (Ragnarsson et al., 2018). It allows employees to successfully reach high career results in a multinational and multicultural environment.

Example of the Paradoxical Nature of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a unique strategy that turns many traditional concepts on its head. One example of such paradoxical approaches can be Nordstrom. The department store is prevalent due to its significant employee and customer priority. It has a so-called “inverted pyramid” corporate sample: the sales workforce and production team are at the most elevated rank of significance. The administrative department and directors are less influential (Saleem et al., 2020). This approach seems pointless for a traditional view of leadership. However, a deeper look reveals that the sales and production departments are the driving force behind the organization. In the occasion of the insolvency or inefficiency of these positions, general managers will not be needed either.

Characteristics of Greenleaf’s Model

The Greenleaf model has ten effective criteria for building a servant leadership model. My personal understanding of this strategy comprehends all criteria but specifically highlights the following:

  • Listening: Servant leaders listen more than they talk; they seek to define and clarify the team’s goals.
  • Empathy: Servant leaders work to understand the perspectives of others. They imply good intentions even if they disagree with certain things.
  • Healing: Servant leaders are capable of healing themselves and their connections with others to form more beneficial and productive relationships.
  • Awareness: Servant leaders must be aware of their duties and obligations. It helps them understand issues related to ethics, power, and values.
  • Belief: Servant leaders do not rely on the authority of their office to make decisions (Saleem et al., 2020). Instead, they rely on their power of persuasion to enlighten and convince other people rather than force them to submit.

Conclusion: Difference Between Leadership and Servant Leadership

Servant leadership treats employees, customers, and the whole community, as the number one priority. The traditional concept of leadership differs in that the chief figure is viewed as an absolute, unquestioned authority that should be obeyed de facto. The servant-leader puts the needs of others ahead of personal cravings, emphasizes a holistic approach to work, promotes a sense of community, and shares authority in decision-making (Saleem et al., 2020). An example of such a holistic approach to employees can be seen at Starbucks. In addition to providing various bonuses and creating a diverse community, Starbucks recently announced that it begins supporting employees with college tuition. CEO Howard Schultz considers that a prominent business can only operate well by connecting shareholder matters with employee matters (Ragnarsson et al., 2018). Other companies, with rare exceptions, are not interested in employees’ personal happenings and needs.


Ragnarsson, S., Kristjánsdóttir, E. S., & Gunnarsdóttir, S. (2018). To be accountable while showing care: The lived experience of people in a servant leadership organization. SAGE Open.

Saleem, F., Zhang, Y. Z., Gopinath, C., & Adeel, A. (2020). Impact of servant leadership on performance: The mediating role of affective and cognitive trust. SAGE Open.

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