Servant Leader

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” (Spears, p.3).

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, p.4).

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” (Spears, p.4).

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