The Art of Servant Leadership

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An increasing emphasis on leader development has brought a shortcoming on one’s ability to follow. Not everyone is born with the characteristics needed to lead. In fact, many individuals get thrown into leadership positions far before they are ready.

Luckily there is the model of the servant leader. The goal of this paper is to define what makes up a servant leader, give examples of successful servant leaders from history, and discuss some of their advantages and disadvantages.

The expansion of servant leadership was spearheaded by Robert K. Greenleaf. He made sure to bring the idea of servant leadership into the light. Giving leaders the ability to look at more than one model of what leadership can look like. Mr. Greenleaf defined a servant leader as “The servant-leader is servant first... Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 2002). The entire idea of servant leadership is that the individual in charge is always looking to serve their subordinates. Always looking to develop, mentor, coach, and assist their team in all facades of life. In turn, special trust and bonds are formed between that leader and their subordinates. Increasing work productivity and the passion for the company to succeed as a whole. The idea of being a fearless dictator has become obsolete in corporate America. Creating a team that works well together and helps lift each other up needs to be at the forefront of every leader’s mind.

Servant Leadership gives you the ability to build those relationships, make those strong teams, and accomplish the mission.

Some of the greatest leaders in history focused on having a servant leader mindset. Some of the more popular servant leaders are Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Albert Schweitzer. These individuals exemplified the ideas and practices of the servant leader model. A personal favorite, however, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In Dr. King’s Conquering Self-Centeredness speech, he states “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity” (King,1957).

Martin Luther King knew that in order for things to change, it was not about him. It was about all of the millions of individuals that will follow him because of what he displays. These individuals knew that Dr. King cared about the rights of ALL African American citizens. His example is definitely one that will be difficult to imitate. But if you truly care about being the best leader you can be, modeling yourself after him is a great place to start.

While being a servant leader has its advantages, it would be unjust and biased to not also lay out the disadvantages of this leadership style. The Editor in Chief of has stated that decisions may take longer to be made (2019, February 6). The article brings a great point when discussing this issue. The basic idea is that in order for a decision to be made that is for the greater good of the whole company, it will take much more thought. Critical thinking in all aspects must be used in order to ensure that no individual will be negatively impacted by the decision of the company. However, the same article also states that servant leadership creates empathy throughout the company at all levels. The article states exactly “When leaders make decisions in this kind of environment, they do so by looking at the situation in the shoes of others. That allows leaders to refuse requests if it doesn’t benefit everyone for some reason” (2019, February 6). So, while there are negative aspects to the servant leadership model, one could easily argue that those are far outweighed by the benefits.

In conclusion, the servant leader is someone who leads with the purpose to serve their subordinates. In the end, that is as the leadership is truly concerned with. How can they as a leader positively impact and assist the organization?

We also looked at great leaders in history who can be used as amazing examples to follow. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified the art of servant leadership. Finally, we compared some of the advantages and disadvantages of this leadership model. In the end, the advantages seem to far outweigh the disadvantages. The largest advantage that sticks out to me is the empathy that it will build in the organization as a whole. With so many soldiers coming into the military straight out of high school, this leadership model is something we need. To build trust and relationships in order to develop young soldiers into great leaders.


  1. ConnectUS. (2019, February 6). Retrieved March 14, 2020, from
  2. Greenleaf, Robert K., and Larry C. Spears. Servant Leadership: a Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. Paulist Press, 2002.
  3. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 'Conquering Self-Centeredness' Speech, Montgomery, Alabama, August 11, 1957
    Social psychology
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The Art of Servant Leadership. (2021, Nov 22). Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from

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