Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics

Robert Greenleaf is said to have coined the term servant leadership. Since then, others have taken up the ideas and promoted them. The following 10 characteristics, based on Greenleaf’s work, seem to me to be the the kind that need to be cultivated by anyone who would aspire to lead in any realm. They seem especially important in the development of a new paradigm of social justice, global harmony, and sustainability.

Ten Characteristics of Servant Leadership

Based on the ideas of Robert K. Greenleaf

1. Servant leaders are servants first, and consciously choose to lead as a way to serve the development of others.

2. Servant leaders respond to any problem by listening first. Their attitude emulates St Francis: “Lord, grant that I may not seek so much to be understood as to understand.”

3. Servant leaders maintain empathy for the essential humanity of other people, even when they cannot accept the other person’s acts.

4. Servant leaders utilize both analysis and intuition to develop foresight (Greenleaf considered foresight to be the Central ethic of leadership.)

5. Servant leaders cultivate awareness and hone their powers of perception.

6. Servant leaders create change by inspiration and persuasion, not coercion.

7. Servant leaders are highly creative, drawing from their unique strengths to create fresh responses to new situations.

8. Servant leaders remember that healing means “to make whole.” They know. that to be wholly human, one must joyfully accept both the goodness and the bitterness of life” while contributing to the good.

9. Servant leaders recognize that healing actions take place in the context of community.

10. Servant leaders change the world by first changing themselves.


2 responses to “Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics

  1. Thanks for the post.

  2. This is a potent reminder of what’s important. I am going to send it to my children (all three are professional planners) and a few other people who have the potential to be servant leaders. Thank you, Tom.

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