What is Servant Leadership?

Posted on February 22, 2022

MLK servant leader

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Joe Warren, Assistant City Manager, Atchison, KSConnect with Joe on LinkedIn.

  • What I’m reading: Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, by Charles Marohn
  • What I’m watching: My kids grow up too darn fast.
  • What I’m listening to: My wife.

What is servant leadership?

Is it not expecting something from others that you are not willing to do yourself?

Is it sacrificing your own schedule to ensure that those you lead meet the obligations of their own?

Is it getting to know the hopes and dreams of your staff, their families, their struggles, and teaming with them to create opportunities for their own personal growth?

Is it understanding the flaws of those around you while not expecting them to own your own shortcomings?

Is it recognizing the past unhealthy, possibly even toxic, potentially hurtful environments staff has worked within previously and extending grace as you work together to create a new expectation for a conducive work environment?

Is it feeling the stresses of your team, honestly acknowledging the difficulties they are navigating while at the same time providing a steady, unwavering presence?

Is it working hand in hand with staff to create clear expectations, consistently communicating feedback both positive and negative, and providing the tools and training necessary to help each become experts in their field?

Is it teaming with staff to identify the core values of the organization and community, leaning on those core values as you develop work systems and structures, and empowering staff to act on their own accord with those core values as the backbone of all initiative and decision making?

Is it having the foresight to realize that not everything will go according to plan, and preparing those around you for the inevitable breakdowns, either self-imposed or externally inflected, and leading with fortitude, persistence, and resiliency?

Is it supporting the ideals of service above self, a calling beyond any individual task at hand, but represented clearly through each and every response as often as possible?

Is it signing up first to take the unpopular shift or task as an act of stewardship to prove through actions that you are not just the leader but part of the team?

Is it being the first one there or the last to leave, setting the example of discipline and dedication to craft and excellence?

Is it crafting an environment where all feel not just welcomed but heard and empowered to be themselves and utilize their own valuable gifts, experiences and cultural tendencies to enrich the space and people that each of us come into contact with each day?

Is it being willing to have the uncomfortable conversations, leaning into the awkwardness and uneasiness whenever it is presented?

Is it doing your best until you know better, then when you know better, doing better?

Is it intentionally setting aside time within the schedule where all on staff can get on equal footing, contributing to the direction and future planning of the organization and setting a course for growth and improvement?

Is it owning full responsibility for the failures of your team while sharing credit for their successes?

Is it realizing that you will also fall short, and when you do that you own your actions and the responsibility for doing better?

Is it extending grace to yourself as you would others?

Is it building a support system of those both within the field and outside the field to lean upon when you inevitably do not have all the answers – calling on the collective wisdom and experience of those who know more and better than you might in this scenario?

Is it setting the example of creating a healthy work/home balance and not just allowing others to do the same but actively encouraging them to do so through words, actions, and policies?


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