Servant Leadership – Its Characteristics, Pros & Cons

Leadership skill is an essential and inbuilt attribute of an individual leading a huge group of people. Different people have their own style of leadership through which they lead their team or audience.

There are several popular theories of leadership but servant leadership is one of the well-established and most utilized types of leadership, especially in corporate and big multinational organizations. In this article, we are going to discuss important aspects of servant leadership, its characteristics, pros, and cons.

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant Leadership is a psychological idea where the leader acts as a servant by serving their team just like any other member. This idea was first brought by Robert K. Greenleaf as he talked about it in one of his essays titled “The Servant as Leader. “

This essay was published in 1970 and has been in the limelight. Leaders who believe or follow this philosophy are known as servant leaders.

The whole prospect of this theory is to create a friendly environment in the workplace as the leader puts the organizational requirements ahead of their own. This is indeed a selfless deed where the leader serves the whole organization or his team for the greater good rather than focusing on their achievements and growth.

Servant Leadership encourages the employees to contribute more as they feel more included and valued. This enhances the workplace’s quality, which is why several multinational companies like Starbucks and FedEx are already implementing this theory.

Characteristics of Servant Leadership

The main attributes of the theory of Servant Leadership are given below.

Serving Others

Being a Servant Leader is entirely based on the instinct and desire to serve others.

Leaders sideline their agenda to serve the whole team and make every employee feel valued by encouraging them to perform at their best. Success is bound to be achieved when a leader serves his team, recognizes other workers’ abilities, and pushes them to achieve targets.

Profound Work Ethics

A profound or integrated work ethic emphasizes and strengthens the relationship between the employees, the company or organization, and the entire society. The philosophy encourages individuals to maintain a steady personality and character in their personal and professional lives.

Building A Feeling Of Community

Servant Leadership helps build a sense of community and togetherness in the heart of their employees that, in turn, enables the easy achievement of organizational targets and objectives. Greenleaf established in his essay that servant leaders provide human service by making their employees feel like a community.

Power Sharing

By sharing the power to make decisions with others, a servant leader encourages the employees to slowly flourish as team members and develop into servant leaders when the time comes.

Advantages of Servant Leadership

The advantages of implementing this theory are given below.

Stronger And Better Teams

Servant Leadership brings out the full potential in the employees, and that exhibits a stronger team. Servant leader is respected by their teammates; thus, there is trust and bonding throughout the organization.

Constructive Workplace

Working alongside the leader radiates a positive working environment where interactions run smoothly and reduce any petty competition amongst employees.

Motivated Employees

The employees are motivated to work in an environment where they are valued and treated equally, which improves the quality of work to a certain extent.

Reduced Employee Alteration Rate

Employees tend to stick to such organizations, and thus, the question of leaving the company or organization decreases significantly.

Leadership Training

By working alongside their servant leaders, other employees learn to take responsibility. They encourage their interns or those working for them to share their views.

Personal And Professional Goals Alignment

The immense support received by a servant leader enables employees to align their personal growth with the organization’s targets and professional adjectives.

Criticism Of The Servant Leadership Theory

Several feminist scholars have argued that servant Leadership is deeply rooted in the patriarchal system and that the idea of being a leader is pretty much associated with masculinity.

Some scholars debate that the application and implementation of the Servant Leadership theory in the real world are impractical and impossible for most organizational leaders to follow. Some researchers even say that the whole concept is pretty unrealistic.

Further, critics like Saros have debated saying that this philosophy was not introduced by Greenleaf but has been in the Bible since the existence of Jesus Christ.

Limitations of Servant Leadership

  • The theory needs to be clarified about the concept of morality in servant leaders.
  • It is difficult to find a servant leader who possesses a complete understanding of service or the business, for that matter.
  • Servant leaders might slowly run out of motivation to serve others, making the whole idea impractical and baseless.
  • To successfully implement servant leadership, the team must have similar moral ethics. Otherwise, the concept might not run as smoothly as described theoretically.
  • Being a Servant leader will require extra effort, and a leader might only sometimes be ready to put in that extra hour or sideline their own goals to achieve that of the organization.
  • The level of authenticity that a servant leader needs to achieve to maintain this ideology is quite intimidating and, thus, very difficult to achieve.
  • There lies a high perceived risk as servant leaders might be perceived as weak and timid, which will obliterate and decrease the formal authority that needs to exist.
  • Involving everyone in the decision-making process by sharing the power of decision-making will lengthen the whole process to a great extent and, in turn, cost the company its valuable time.
  • Only a few employees are confident enough to make their own decisions. Servant Leadership encourages every employee to drive and own their choices which might be difficult for people who work better under authority.


Being a servant leader is not easy; however, if you believe similarly to this theory, you should work on that and try to exhibit a healthy workplace.

If appropriately implemented and followed well by the employees, Servant Leadership will emerge as a successful orientation toward a better future for the whole organization. If you are aspiring to become a servant leader, the success of huge organizations like Starbucks, Marriott, and FedEx will surely motivate you.

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