Servant Leadership vs Traditional Leadership Styles

Traditional leadership emphasizes the importance of power and authority in achieving organizational goals, while servant leadership focuses on serving the needs of employees and empowering them to reach their potential.

Ultimately, the best leadership approach depends on the context and specific goals of the organization. Leaders need to be flexible and adaptable, and choose the approach that is best suited to the situation at hand.

Servant Leadership

The servant leadership style can be effective in creating a positive and productive workplace culture, as it promotes collaboration, trust, and a sense of community among team members. It can also lead to increased job satisfaction and employee engagement, which in turn can improve organizational performance.

Traditional Leadership

On the other hand, traditional leadership can be effective in situations where clear direction and decisive action are required. It can be particularly effective in crisis situations where quick decisions need to be made. Additionally, traditional leadership can be beneficial in organizations where there is a clear hierarchy and chain of command.

A group meeting takes place around a small business board room while a servant leader guides the meeting.
Photo by fauxels on

What Are The Principles Of Servant Leadership?

The principles of servant leadership are rooted in the concept of service and putting the needs of others first. Servant leadership is based on the idea that a leader’s primary role is to serve their team members, rather than the other way around.

Some of the key servant leadership principles include:

  • Empathy: Servant leaders are empathetic and seek to understand the needs and perspectives of their team members.
  • Listening: Servant leaders actively listen to their team members and value their input and ideas.
  • Healing: Servant leaders focus on creating a positive and supportive work environment that promotes healing and personal growth.
  • Awareness: Servant leaders are self-aware and strive to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Persuasion: Servant leaders seek to persuade rather than command, using their influence to inspire and motivate their team members. Effective servant leadership focuses on the empowerment of employees.
  • Conceptualization: Servant leaders are able to think strategically and envision a better future for their organization. The servant leadership model often spotlights an organization’s mission statement as a shared vision for their team.
  • Stewardship: Servant leaders are responsible stewards of their organization’s resources and seek to use them in a way that benefits all stakeholders.
  • Commitment to growth: Servant leaders are committed to the professional growth and development of their team members, and seek to empower them to reach their full potential.

Overall, servant leadership is based on the idea that a leader’s primary role is to serve and support their team members, creating a positive and productive work environment that benefits everyone involved.

Is Servant Leadership Effective?

Research suggests that servant leadership can be an effective approach to leadership in many contexts. Studies have found that organizations led by servant leaders tend to have higher levels of employee engagement, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. In turn, these positive outcomes are associated with better performance and productivity.

A Culture Of Collaboration, Trust, and Empowerment

One of the reasons why servant leadership can be effective is that it promotes a culture of collaboration, trust, and empowerment. By focusing on the needs of team members and creating a supportive work environment, servant leaders can help to build strong, cohesive teams that are more motivated and productive.

Promoting Ethical Behavior And Social Responsibility

In addition, servant leadership can be effective in promoting ethical behavior and social responsibility within organizations. By emphasizing the importance of serving others and using resources wisely, servant leaders can help to create a culture of integrity and accountability.

Goals Of The Organzation

However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of servant leadership may depend on the specific context and goals of the organization. Servant leadership may not be appropriate in all situations, and leaders may need to be flexible and adapt their leadership style to different circumstances.

A good servant leader will require a high degree of self-awareness and commitment to personal growth, which may be challenging for some leaders to cultivate.

What Are The Pillars Of Traditional Leadership?

The pillars of traditional leadership are rooted in the concept of hierarchy and authority. The traditional leadership approach is based on the idea that the leader is the person in charge, and their authority comes from their position or title within the organization.

Some of the key elements of traditional leadership include:

  • Power and authority: Traditional leaders are often characterized by their ability to control and direct others through the use of formal authority and power.
  • Command and control: Traditional leaders tend to adopt a command-and-control approach to leadership, where they make decisions and issue orders that are expected to be followed without question.
  • Focus on results: Traditional leaders are often focused on achieving specific goals and outcomes, and may be more concerned with performance metrics than with the well-being of individual team members.
  • Hierarchy and structure: Traditional leaders tend to rely on organizational structures and hierarchies to manage their teams and achieve goals.
  • Transactional leadership: Traditional leaders often use a transactional leadership style, where rewards and punishments are used to motivate and manage team members. Traditional leadership can be commonly found in the corporate world.

Overall, traditional leadership is based on the idea that the leader is the ultimate authority, and their role is to direct and control others to achieve specific goals.

A female leader guides a meeting through using a servant leadership approach.
Photo by Thirdman on

What Is The Origin Of Servant Leadership?

The idea of servant leadership can be traced back to the writings of Robert K. Greenleaf, who is often credited with developing the idea in the 1970s.

Robert Greenleaf was a management consultant and researcher who had a long career at AT&T, where he rose to the position of director of management research. In the late 1960s, Greenleaf became interested in the idea of leadership as service, and began to explore the concept in his writing and research.

“The Servant As Leader”

In 1970, Greenleaf published an essay entitled “The Servant as Leader,” which outlined his ideas about the role of leaders as servants to their teams and organizations. In the essay, Greenleaf argued that the most effective leaders are those who prioritize the needs of their entire team and work to empower them to achieve their full potential.

Greenleaf continued to write and speak about servant leadership throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and his ideas gained a following among scholars, practitioners, and organizational leaders.

Today, servant leadership is widely recognized as a valuable and effective approach to leadership, and continues to be studied and practiced by individuals and business leaders around the world.

Experts In Servant Leadership

Larry C. Spears is a leadership scholar and former CEO of The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. He is widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on servant leadership, and has written and spoken extensively on the theory of servant leadership.

Larry Spears worked closely with Robert K. Greenleaf, who is credited with developing the concept of servant leadership. Spears served as the first executive director of The Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and has been instrumental in promoting and advancing the concept of servant leadership around the world.

How To Practice Servant Leadership

Practicing servant leadership involves focusing on the needs and development of others, and working to create a culture of service and empowerment within your strong team or organization. Some of the most important characteristics of servant leadership include:

Listen actively

One of the key elements of servant leadership is the ability to listen to others with an open mind and heart. When you listen actively, you show respect for others’ perspectives and needs, and create a more inclusive and collaborative environment.

Empower others

Servant leaders work to empower their team members by giving them the tools, resources, and support they need to succeed. This can involve delegating responsibilities, providing feedback and coaching, and creating opportunities for growth and development.

Lead by example

As a servant leader, you set the tone for the rest of the team. By modeling the behaviors and attitudes you want to see in others, you can inspire and motivate them to follow your lead.

Serve others

One of the hallmarks of servant leadership is a commitment to serving others. This can involve putting others’ needs before your own, and working to create a culture of service within your team or organization.

Build trust

Trust is essential to effective leadership, and servant leaders work to build trust through transparency, honesty, and integrity. By being open and authentic with others, you can create a more trusting and supportive environment.

Foster collaboration

Servant leaders encourage collaboration and teamwork, and work to create a culture of cooperation and mutual support. By promoting a sense of shared purpose and vision, you can help your team members feel more connected and committed to their work.

By practicing these and other servant leadership behaviors, you can create a more supportive and effective work environment, and help your team members achieve their full potential.

Is Any One Leadership Style Better Than The Rest?

There is no one leadership style that is superior to all others, as the effectiveness of a leadership style depends on the specific context and goals of the organization. Different situations may call for different leadership styles, and successful leaders are often able to adapt their style of leadership to fit the needs of their team and organization.

For example, a highly structured and hierarchical organization may benefit more from traditional forms of leadership approach that emphasizes clear direction and control. On the other hand, a highly creative and collaborative team may benefit from a more participative leadership approach that encourages open communication and collaboration.

Ultimately, the most effective leadership style is one that is flexible, adaptable, and responsive to the needs of the organization and its team members. Successful leaders share common goals, like building strong teams and focusing on the success of the company in the long run.

What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Leadership styles can be highly dependent on individual factors like personality and mindset. However, it is common for the best leaders to utilize different techniques depending on what their organization needs. If you are researching the type of leadership that might make you a good leader, there are a few tools that can help.

Take a look at our blog for insight into determining your leadership style, and which leadership styles might suit your organization best.

3 responses to “Servant Leadership vs Traditional Leadership Styles”

  1. […] Servant leadership: A leader should prioritize the needs of their team, working to support and develop them, rather than seeking power or personal gain. […]

  2. […] Losing a team member can often mean more work for the remaining members of the team. Come up with a plan as soon as you learn of an employee’s upcoming departure. Make sure you evenly distribute the additional workload, and be prepared to take on some additional work yourself to demonstrate you are also a part of the overall team – this is also a great example of servant leadership! […]

  3. […] team’s needs if they don’t practice active leadership skills. While everyone’s leadership style may differ slightly, a good boss should still be able to apply effective leadership principles to […]

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