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Servant Leadership vs. Traditional Leadership: Understanding the Differences and Benefits

Understand the differences between servant leadership and traditional leadership styles and how being a servant leader can enhance your workplace culture.

In the realm of leadership, there are numerous styles that can be adopted to achieve success, and each style comes with its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Among these leadership styles, servant leadership has gained significant attention in recent years as an alternative to more traditional, hierarchical approaches.

But what is the servant leadership style and why has it gained so much popularity in the workplace?

Servant leadership is a values-based leadership style that focuses on empowering and supporting others, rather than primarily seeking personal power or control. Servant leaders focus on those they’re serving more than on themselves.

By putting the needs of their team members first, servant leaders create an environment where individuals can thrive, grow, and ultimately contribute to the greater success of the organization.

In this article, we'll discuss the definition of servant leadership theory and how it differs from traditional leadership styles. We will also explore the benefits of adopting servant leadership and provide examples of how it can be applied in various organizational contexts.

Servant leadership is a leadership style that emphasizes listening to and putting the needs of others first, rather than the leader’s own interests.

What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is a leadership style that prioritizes the needs, growth, and well-being of the team members over the leader's own self-interest.

The servant leader shares power, emphasizes collaboration, and focuses on developing the potential of their team members, adjusting to different personality types. This approach is in stark contrast to traditional leadership models that often prioritize the leader's authority and control.

The Servant leadership style has been shown to lead to improved employee satisfaction, increased collaboration, and enhanced organizational performance. By fostering an environment where team members feel valued, supported, and encouraged to grow, servant leaders cultivate a positive company culture that promotes innovation, creativity, and teamwork.

This leadership approach not only benefits individual employees but also contributes to the overall success of the organization, as engaged and motivated employees are more likely to be productive and committed to achieving the organization's goals, as well as to become future leaders.

As the modern business world becomes more complex and interconnected, the characteristics of servant leadership is becoming an increasingly attractive option for organizations looking to navigate these challenges effectively.

The servant leadership model is about others at the core, and by placing the well-being and development of their team members at the forefront of their leadership philosophy, servant leaders can create a resilient, adaptable workforce that is equipped to tackle the obstacles and seize the opportunities that arise in today's dynamic business environment.

Characteristics of servant leadership: Listening, empathy, awareness, persuasion, healing, foresight, conceptualization

Key principles of servant leadership

As the business landscape continues to evolve, with an increasing emphasis on collaboration, innovation, and social responsibility, servant leadership is becoming more relevant than ever.

Adopting a servant leadership style can lead to more engaged employees and a motivated and productive workforce, which can ultimately result in a more successful organization. By prioritizing the well-being and development of their team members, servant leaders foster a culture of trust, cooperation, and commitment that can propel organizations to new heights.

Here are a few of the servant leadership characteristics and servant leadership examples that make this way of leading so powerful:

  • Listening: Servant leaders prioritize active listening and engage in open, two-way communication with their team members. By actively listening, they are better equipped to understand the needs, concerns, and aspirations of those they lead.
  • Empathy: Empathy is a cornerstone of servant leadership. Servant leaders strive to understand and appreciate the feelings, perspectives, and experiences of their team members, fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment. There’s a certain persuasion servant leaders develop by building empathetic relationships and demonstrating true care.
  • Awareness: Servant leaders are acutely aware of the impact of their decisions and actions on others. This awareness enables them to make more informed and responsible choices that benefit the entire team.
  • Persuasion: Rather than relying on authority or coercion, servant leaders use persuasion to build consensus and encourage collaboration. They value the input of their team members and work together to achieve shared goals.
  • Healing: A servant leader focuses on the needs of others and is keen to recognize the importance of healing relationships and promoting personal growth within their teams. They care about transformational leadership and about creating a nurturing environment that encourages learning, self-discovery, and personal development.
  • Foresight: Servant leaders possess the ability to anticipate future challenges and opportunities. By proactively preparing for these eventualities, they help their teams navigate uncertainty and change.
  • Conceptualization: A key aspect of servant leadership is the ability to envision the big picture and develop long-term strategies. Servant leaders balance day-to-day operations with the pursuit of larger organizational goals.

How is servant leadership different from traditional leadership?

In recent years, traditional leadership styles have started to lose popularity as organizations recognize the need for a more inclusive, people-focused approach. Servant leadership has emerged as a popular alternative, gaining traction for its emphasis on empathy, collaboration, and the development of team members.

Traditional leadership models often prioritize the leader's authority, control, and decision-making power, potentially leading to a lack of engagement and stifled creativity among team members. This top-down approach can create an environment where employees feel undervalued, disengaged, and hesitant to take initiative.

Servant leadership supports these qualities by creating an environment where employees feel empowered to contribute ideas, take risks, and collaborate effectively. Furthermore, servant leadership has been linked to improved employee satisfaction, reduced turnover, and enhanced organizational performance.

Servant leadership differs from other leadership styles in several ways, including:


While traditional leadership styles often prioritize the leader's authority and control, servant leadership shifts the focus to the needs and development of the team members. Servant leaders focus on the needs of their team members and foster a sense of belonging and purpose within the organization.


Servant leadership encourages leaders to share power. Servant leaders share important decision-making responsibilities with their team members, encouraging a more democratic and collaborative approach to leadership.


Open and transparent communication is a hallmark of servant leadership, in contrast to traditional leadership styles that may involve top-down, one-way communication.


Servant leaders prioritize consensus-building and collaborative decision-making, valuing the input and perspectives of their team members.


The servant leadership approach emphasizes personal and professional growth for all team members, whereas traditional leadership may prioritize the development of only select individuals or the leader themselves.

Servant leadership leads to: Improved employee satisfaction, increased collaboration, enhanced organizational performance

Benefits of servant leadership

Servant leadership skills can be applied in any workplace to improve office relationships and create a better work environment. There are many benefits of servant leadership, such as:

Better collaboration

Servant leadership fosters an environment of teamwork and cooperation, leading to more effective problem-solving and decision-making.

Improved employee satisfaction

By prioritizing the emotional health and well-being of their team members, servant leaders contribute to a more positive and supportive work environment, leading to higher employee satisfaction.

Reduced turnover

The supportive and nurturing atmosphere created by servant leaders can result in reduced employee turnover and increased loyalty.

More trust

Servant leaders build trust within their teams by demonstrating empathy, transparency, and integrity, which can lead to stronger relationships and increased loyalty among team members.

Increased collaboration

By sharing power and decision-making responsibilities, servant leaders encourage collaboration and facilitate the exchange of ideas and perspectives among team members, fostering innovation and creativity.

Enhanced organizational performance

Research has shown that organizations led by servant leaders tend to exhibit higher levels of performance, employee engagement, and overall success.

Incorporate servant leadership into your office environment

Implementing servant leadership in your workplace can lead to a more positive, collaborative, and productive work environment. It fosters open communication, prioritizes employee development and inclusion, and overall leads to a more enjoyable work day.

By understanding the key principles of servant leadership and implementing them in your organization, you can unlock the full potential of your team members and achieve greater success.

As you embark on your journey to incorporate servant leadership into your workplace, remember that tools and resources are available to assist you in creating a more engaged and connected team. If you need help getting started with your leadership journey, consider using Mailchimp.

Mailchimp is a great resource for business owners and provides everything from tips on how to build a positive company culture to tools to better manage your team. With Mailchimp, you can access all the tools and resources you need to improve your work environment and connect with your team members

From understanding different leadership styles to promoting company values and fostering customer satisfaction, there are numerous solutions to support your servant leadership journey and help your organization thrive. Check out Mailchimp so you can be the best possible leader for your team.

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