Servant Leadership: What is it and what are the benefits?

October 18, 2018

In this blog, Laura explains what we mean by ‘servant leadership’ and what the benefits are of this model.

By Laura Higson-Kirrane


Over the years, leadership styles have continued to develop and diversify (thankfully!) Moving far away from more traditional, authoritarian ‘stick’ leadership methodologies, the modern world of work has adapted a much more consultative approach to leadership known as servant leadership. To the leaders of the world – don’t panic – you aren’t now expected to walk around asking if your employees need a top up on their teas!

Introduced initially by Greenleaf (1970) in his essay ‘The Servant as a Leader’, servant leadership has a great deal of synergy with the key principles of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a leadership style which sees leaders placing the development and needs of their followers before their own self-interests.

Paving the way for a plethora of thought leaders, Greenleaf really did lead the way. The end result being institutions creating and designing a culture with a ‘people first’ approach. Servant leadership can be applied across any industry, and in any size business or department.

So what are the benefits?

Where to begin! Taking an approach like this actively discourages micromanagement and takes away a more traditional disciplinarian environment; making employees accountable for the completion of their own tasks without criticising how they get there. Opposing more traditional command and control approaches, this would see you, as a manager, becoming a facilitator through collaboration! This level of ownership has been found to increase dedication and in turn, increase employees’ pride in their work.

The second positive is the deviation away from a traditional hierarchical model where power sits at the top of the pyramid and filters down. The servant leadership approach takes a more inclusive and open environment, enabling and supporting a two-way path for communication. Those employees at the ‘base’ of the pyramid have their thoughts not only welcomed and acknowledged, but actively encouraged.


Greenleaf said ‘servant leaders understand that it’s the diversity of its workforce, that is vital to the success of the organisation’.


The final positive to adopting this style of leadership is that it allows a manager/leader to become a chameleon and adopt a broad range of leadership styles. It includes the different thoughts of your diverse workforce, keeping the organisation current and creating a culture of inclusion where everyone feels involved and valued.

Whilst servant leadership is viewed by many as a positive and refreshing approach to leadership, there are other considerations to be made before you adapt your leadership style to come more serving of the people working for you. First of all, it’s important to consider that it’s only effective when everyone in your organisation is onboard. It’s not something you can successfully implement without all your leaders wanting to go on this journey and all employees engaging and being receptive to the change. Consistency is the key to empowering your employees and facilitating them as thought leaders in the organisation.

The second point to consider is that by being a server of others, you could be seen to be reducing your own authority and make for a difficult situation should a member of your team need a more authoritative approach to being lead!

Whilst there are positives and negatives to a style like this, it’s an extremely refreshing take on leadership which has been found to empower, improve productivity and diversity within organisations and ultimately, improve overarching success. It’s important to assess your team, their learning styles and the other leaders’ receptiveness to ensure you’re able to implement such a change in leadership style.


To find out more about servant leadership and how it could improve your business, just get in touch with the team.


Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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