Published here July 2002.

Introduction  | Leader  | Project Management | Project Manager's Skills 
Project Manager's Types of Leadership | Servant Leadership
Ten Characteristics of a Servant-Leader | Characteristics Compared 
Project Management by a Servant Leader | Risks & Benefits | References

Ten Characteristics of a Servant-Leader

To further define Greenleaf's paradigm shift, Larry C. Spears identified ten characteristics of a servant-leader in his paper titled "On Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders:

  1. Listening: Servant leader must listen to verbal and non-verbal signals and interpret what the others are saying. In addition, the servant leader must listen to their inner thoughts and feelings and interpret them (Spears, p.2).
  2. Empathy: "The most successful servant-leaders are those who have become skilled empathetic listeners." "One assumes the good intentions of co-workers and colleagues and does not reject them as people, even when one may be forced to refuse to accept certain behaviors or performance (Spears, p.3).
  3. Healing: "servant-leaders recognize that they have an opportunity to help make whole those with whom they come in contact" (Spears, p.3).
  4. Awareness: Servant leaders should "view most situations from a more integrated, holistic position." Robert Greenleaf said awareness "is a disturber and an awakener. Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed" (Spears, p.3).
  5. Persuasion: The servant leader should rely "on persuasion, rather than on one's positional authority, in making decisions within an organization." The technique of convincing rather than coercion should be used. This is in contrast to the "authoritarian model " of leadership. "The servant-leader is effective at building consensus within groups" (Spears, p.3).
  6. Conceptualization: "The ability to look at a problem or an organization from a conceptualizing perspective means that one must think beyond day-to-day realities" (Spears, p.3).
  7. Foresight: "a characteristic that enables the servant-leader to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision for the future" (Spears, p.3).
  8. Stewardship: "a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion, rather than control" (Spears, p.4).
  9. Commitment to the growth of people: "deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual within his or her organization." An example is "taking personal interest in the ideas and suggestions from everyone, encouraging worker involvement in decision making" (Spears, p.4).
  10. Building community: A servant-leader should "seek to identify some means for building community among those who work within a given institution" (Spears, p.4).

Looper and McGee describe a successful servant leader (Looper, 2001). Phil Jackson, head coach of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, "builds a strongly interdependent team-one in which players listen to each other and dig deep to find the resources to make a difference ... in a league that glorifies individualism". Glen Bounds feels that servant leadership pays off for the organization (Bounds, 1998). He states "servant leaders listen to, respond to and support employees.

They remove barriers and obstacles, which would prevent employees from growing as individuals and performing well in the workplace. They see to it that personal and professional growth are readily available to employees." "A servant leader embraces people-building and development, not people protections-giving care and support while upholding the company's expectations of employee performance."

Bounds goes on to say that "a high trust level among employees gives an organization an agility to respond to the constantly changing business environment without having to hassle with constant internal resistance to change." He describes Jack Lowe, CEO of TD Industries, as one of the pioneers in practicing servant leadership in business and recognized as one of the Fortune "100 Best Companies to Work For in America. Lowe states " if you are doing it for the right reasons — the honest desire to help others — it pays great dividends."

Servant Leadership  Servant Leadership

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