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What Is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership -- a philosophy in which leaders focus on their employees and customers first and foremost -- has gained popularity in recent years. Experienced professionals are discovering that the characteristics of servant leadership can be effective in establishing the trust required for business success, employee loyalty and continued growth. If you are aiming to carve out a successful career in business, you need to understand this leadership style. You will find that a good online MBA program with an up-to-date curriculum will cover the topic in depth.

Characteristics of Servant Leadership

The old days, when a top-down managerial style was the hallmark of business leadership, are over. Today, the most important goal for a leader is to cultivate loyalty among employees. That loyalty will create a "bottom-up" commitment to the company and improve performance. Leaders in companies such as Starbucks, Best Buy, Ritz Carlton, Whole Foods, UPS, Southwest Airlines and many others are discovering that the characteristics of servant leadership go a long way toward accomplishing this goal.

Here are some of the most often cited characteristics of servant leadership.


Servant leaders have great communication skills. They understand the concerns of employees and hear their suggestions. Rather than leading by authority, they engage in dialogues through which they can lead by persuasion.


Stewardship is "holding something in trust for another," according to Peter Block, consultant and author of the books Stewardship and The Empowered Manager and other books that focus on servant leadership and civic engagement. Leaders must manage their organizations for the benefit of employees. When employees see this, they tend to be more loyal and committed to the organization's success.

Community Building

People need to feel connected to the companies they work for to become personally committed, and this requires a sense of community. Otherwise, "work" is just a place where people go for eight hours a day.

Taking Responsibility for Growth

Servant leaders ensure that employees have opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. Managers can do this by making sure funds are available for supporting continuing education, acting on employee suggestions and encouraging employee involvement in the decision-making process.

"Mad Men" Days Are Gone

Although millions of television viewers fell in love with "Mad Men," the days of the Don Draper School of Management are over. A much more nuanced approach to leadership is required in the modern business setting. Mastering servant leadership characteristics can help prepare professionals to succeed in virtually every level of management.

Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.


SmartBrief: Restoring Corporate Trust -- Why We Must Try

The Journal of Virtues and Leadership: Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders

Cone Communications: Perceptions, Millennials and CSR: How to Engage the New Leaders of Tomorrow A Review of Servant Leadership Attributes: Developing a Practical Model

Success: How To: Become a Servant Leader in 4 Steps

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