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:
- 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).
- 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).
- Healing: "servant-leaders recognize that they have an opportunity
to help make whole those with whom they come in contact" (Spears, p.3).
- 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"
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- Stewardship: "a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also
emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion, rather than control" (Spears,
- 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).
- Building community: A servant-leader should "seek to identify some
means for building community among those who work within a given institution"
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."