Servant Leadership Theory

Cite this article as:"Servant Leadership Theory," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2020, last accessed October 27, 2020,


What is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership focuses on the role of the leaders as serving the needs of others through employee development and goal attainment. To summarize, the leader puts the needs and wants of the subordinates first by helping them to develop professionally. This effort may come at the expense of the servant leader’s own wellbeing.

Servant leaders are expected to have a strong sense of ethicality, social conscience, and fairness. This is imperative for demonstrating their objective of acting in the best interests of subordinates and third-party stakeholders. The focus on these factors at the expense of the leader’s own wellbeing distinguishes it from aspects of other leadership approaches.

Interestingly, this approach does not focus on having employees support organizational goals. By fulfilling the obligation to support the subordinate (and other stakeholders), the organization ultimately benefits. Observed benefits include increased subordinate commitment, improved interpersonal helping behaviors, increases in citizenship behaviors directed toward the community, and improved job performance.

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