What does servant leadership mean?

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Servant leadership is an innovative approach that contrasts traditional leadership styles. It emphasizes empathy, listening, and placing others’ needs before one’s own. We see the importance of servant leadership, especially in Agile and the Scrum framework. In this article, I explore how managers can apply servant leadership and why it’s a vital tool in today’s modern society.

Understanding servant leadership

Servant leadership is a unique management style. This model originated from Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. The core of it is leaders serving their team members. It values empathy, active listening, and prioritizing others’ needs. Servant leaders have distinct characteristics. They focus on team growth and prioritize the well-being of their members. These leaders cultivate a trusting environment. They listen to team feedback and involve members in decision-making processes. They also encourage personal and professional development.

Servant leadership has a real-world application. It shapes work cultures in various industries and organizations. These leaders foster an environment of cooperation, inclusivity, and respect. They understand that each member brings unique ideas and perspectives. This inclusivity fuels innovation and drives organizational success. The impact of servant leadership is profound. It enhances team morale and encourages innovation. It promotes an inclusive, respectful work culture. It also leads to high levels of job satisfaction. Ultimately, servant leadership cultivates environments that value and champion the collective success of all members.

The servant leadership approach fits perfectly into our modern society. As our society evolves, there is a growing emphasis on diversity, inclusivity, and individual growth. Servant leadership complements these values. It encourages leaders to foster an environment of inclusion, respect, and collaboration. The resulting diversity of ideas and perspectives sparks innovation and drives organizational success.

The wolf pack

Interestingly, servant leadership reflects the social structure of wolf packs. Wolf packs operate under a hierarchical system with the alpha wolf at the helm. Yet, contrary to popular belief, the alpha wolf leads from behind. They ensure the safety and success of the entire pack, demonstrating a perfect model of servant leadership. The alpha wolf’s behavior underscores the key principles of servant leadership: nurturing the pack, ensuring collective success, and putting the needs of the pack before their own.

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Agile leadership

Agile methodologies require dynamic leadership. Traditional leadership styles, which often prioritize direction and control, don’t fit. The Scrum Master’s and Agile Leader’s roles demand servant leadership. They guide the team, resolve obstacles, and foster an environment that promotes self-organization and cross-functionality. They are akin to the leader wolf in a pack, always at the tail, supporting the team and ensuring their success.

A lesson for traditional managers

Traditional management can learn valuable lessons from servant leadership. Traditional managers may lean towards directive behaviors, focusing on tasks and outputs. However, servant leadership fosters a growth mindset, prioritizing people over processes. This people-first approach encourages personal development, improves team morale, and promotes innovation. It’s a model that fits the ethos of our modern, inclusive society, one that respects and values diverse ideas and contributions.

Traditional managers should adjust their mindsets to embrace servant leadership. The transition requires a change from directive to supportive behaviors. Managers must learn to trust their team, enabling them to make decisions and take ownership of their work. They need to encourage open dialogue, provide resources, and guide the team in problem-solving. This shift mirrors the behavior of the alpha wolf, who leads from behind, empowering each pack member to find their path and contribute to the pack’s success.

Conclusion: servant leadership for the future

In conclusion, servant leadership is a powerful model for managers to employ. It facilitates a shift from traditional management methods towards a more inclusive, people-centric approach. Servant leadership, similar to the alpha wolf leading its pack, prioritizes the team’s well-being, encourages diversity, and champions growth. As we continue into an increasingly complex and diverse society, servant leadership provides an effective tool for leaders to navigate change and foster an environment of innovation, respect, and mutual success.


  • Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Paulist Press.
  • Agile Alliance. (2021). Servant leadership. https://www.agilealliance.org
  • Mech, L. D. (1999). Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77(8), 1196-1203.