The Servant-Leader


I just finished reading The Case for Servant Leadership by Kent Keith for my M.A in Global Leadership class.  I enjoyed the chapter on key practices of Servant-Leaders.  He lists self-awareness, listening, changing the power pyramid, developing people, coaching-not controlling, unleashing the energy and intelligence of others (empowerment) and foresight.

In the section on coaching-not controlling, Keith references work by James Autry, who wrote the book, The Servant-Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve the Bottom-Line Performance.  Here are six things Autry believes about leadership.

1.  Leadership is not about controlling people; it’s about caring for people and being a useful resource for people.

2.  Leadership is not about being boss; it’s about being present for people and building a community at work.

3.  Leadership is not about holding on to territory; it’s about letting go of ego, bringing your spirit to work, being your best and most authentic self.

4.  Leadership is less concerned with pep talks and more concerned with creating a place in which people can do good work, can find meaning in their work, and can bring their spirits to work.

5.  Leadership, like life, is largely a matter of paying attention.

6.  Leadership requires love.

What do you believe about leadership? Do you agree with Autry?  What do you like about his list?

Other related posts you may enjoy reading:



Autry, J. (2001). The Servant-Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve bottom-Line Performance. Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, p. 20-21.

8 thoughts on “The Servant-Leader

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  1. It may sound silly, but if we substitute “Leading the orchestra” for the simple word “leadership” in the referenced list, we see it’s still a good list of leadership attributes, but perhaps focused on emotional state and nurturing the development of individuals. Leadership is (among other definitions) still about providing direction, respectfully and appropriately, to reach a desired end result. “Leading the orchestra” should (literally) result in a productive, harmonious concert made possible by a roomful of ego-driven artists who care deeply about music, but may not work well with each other, let alone the conductor or the concertmaster ( A servant leader has a potential advantage over other leadership styles in that he/she isn’t working to overcome their own ego (primus inter pares), but able to more clearly focus on helping the team overcome individual “hang ups” to work together productively.

    1. Hi Troop113,
      Thanks for coming by and hanging out on the blog. I love the metaphor you shared about “leading the orchestra”. Brilliant. Parker Palmer writes about teaching that does not have the teacher at the center, but rather “the great thing” or topic that everyone cares about. In your illustration, the great thing is music. So even it you have ego driven individuals, you still get harmony because they all care deeply about making great music. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  2. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of trying to control those we coach–through words, facial expressions, lack of comment. Being attentive and doing it in love–definitely can’t do those on my own. Thanks for the great input, Steverino. Makes a lot of sense–and requires conscious effort.

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