Are You a Servant Leader or Just Self-Serving?

Servant Leader or Self-Serving?

There is something that has really been bothering me lately. It has caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting on my own leadership. It is a simple question that I continue to ask myself: Am I a Servant Leader? Or am I just Self-Serving?

Servant Leadership is a great idea. I have spent a lot of my life studying the concept (Robert Greenleaf is considered the founder of the concept). Essentially Servant Leadership is that the leader is a servant first. It is a philosophy, a way of leading that enriches the lives of people, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.

There are 10 basic characteristics of a Servant Leader:

  1. Listening. A Servant Leader must listen first and talk second.
  2. Empathy. This is about seeking to understand others, especially those that are different from us.
  3. Healing. Servant Leaders understand they have an opportunity to help those who are hurting heal. They understand they must first heal themselves before they can help others.
  4. Awareness. How aware are you of your strengths and weaknesses? Servant Leaders are self-aware and they are also aware of their surroundings.
  5. Persuasion. The Servant Leader seeks to convince others rather than coerce compliance.  They build consensus within groups.
  6. Conceptualization. Servant Leaders are called to seek a balance between conceptual thinking and a day-to-day focused approach.
  7. Foresight. Foresight 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.
  8. Stewardship. This assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion rather than control. It is about using your unique gifts to serve others.
  9. Commitment to the growth of people.  Servant leaders are committed to the growth of each and every person.
  10. Building community. Servant Leaders build up people, they value relationships and they work to build a community of leaders who are committed to making a difference.

If those are the characteristics of a Servant Leader, what about a Self-Serving one? A Self-Serving leader:

  • Makes everything about themselves. Even when speaking about someone else or about a situation that has little to do with them, they find a way to insert themselves in it.
  • Plays the Blame Game. I have written about the blame game before on this blog. A Self-Serving leader is the MVP of this game.
  • Believes that their solution is the only solution. There is never one solution to a problem. There are many. Self-Serving leaders focus only on the solution that is their own and often don’t recognize other solutions. I am guilt of this and we see a lot of this in our country.
  • Puts their own success over the teams. We see this in sports often. This is an attitude of the team lost but at least I got my stats. I have seen this in business as well. Leaders in business who put their own success before the success of their organization often find themselves out of a job. This happens because they get fired or because they go out of business.
  • Does not mind stretching the truth. Little lies don’t matter to these kind of leaders as long as it allows them to accomplish whatever they set out to.

I strive to practice Servant Leadership, but often I fall short and find myself acting like a Self-Serving leader. This is unacceptable to me. That is not who I want to be. At times, I have to say to myself, “It’s not about you.”

What about you?

Are You a Servant Leader or Just Self-Serving?

It is a difficult question to ask yourself, especially if you are honest. If you are like me, you strive for Servant Leadership, but you don’t always get there. As long as you are honest with yourself, you can continue to grow into the Servant Leader you are called to be.

I am personally working every day to answer the important call to Servant Leadership. I know that the number one thing holding me back is me.

I am a Servant Leader.

I am also at times, Self-Serving.

I want to change and I know that I will. I will answer the call. How about you?


*Characteristics of a Servant Leader are from the book “Practicing Servant-Leadership” by Larry Spears 

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