• James Geiger

Servant Leadership

Nicholas Vincent Bossman wrote a post about leadership. I began reflecting on my years in the USF Leadership House and what I learned from that experience.

I want to take a moment to thank all the people that have helped me become the leader that I’ve become.

Frank Hamilton - Leadership House Master

Stephen Ritch - Ethics Professor (wish I did the study abroad class with you

Sue Shapiro and Arthur Shapiro - I forget the class name, but easily one of my favorite classes!

Amy Lohman Simon - Community Practicum

Jennifer B. Espinola - My boss in the leadership office.

Donald DiPaolo - LEAD Week speaker - “Being without wax”

All of you have a special place in my heart, as you have helped develop my leadership style, and for that I thank you.

Sometimes I STILL struggle with ‘serving first, leading second’, but I sure do try my damnedest!

I wanted to create a note to remind me of the 10 characteristics, so here it goes:


How to Become a Servant Leader

According to Larry C. Spears, former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, these are the 10 most important characteristics of servant leaders:









Commitment to the growth of people.

Building community.

From "Character and Servant Leadership: 10 Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders" by Larry C. Spears, published in "The Journal of Virtues and Leadership," Vol. 1, Issue 1. Reproduced with permission.

Once you've decided to prioritize other people's needs over your own in the long term, you can work on developing your skills in each area. Let's look at how you can do this.

1. Listening

You'll serve people better when you make a deep commitment to listening intently to them and understanding what they're saying. To improve your listening skills, give people your full attention, take notice of their body language, avoid interrupting them before they've finished speaking, and give feedback on what they say.

2. Empathy

Servant leaders strive to understand other people's intentions and perspectives. You can be more empathetic by putting aside your viewpoint temporarily, valuing others' perspectives, and approaching situations with an open mind.

3. Healing

This characteristic relates to the emotional health and "wholeness" of people, and involves supporting them both physically and mentally.

First, make sure that your people have the knowledge, support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively, and that they have a healthy workplace. Then take steps to help them be happy and engaged in their roles.

You could also use a tool such as the Triple Bottom Line to think about how your organization can make a positive impact on the people you lead and the customers you serve.

4. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to look at yourself, think deeply about your emotions and behavior, and consider how they affect the people around you and align with your values.

You can become more self-aware by knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and asking for other people's feedback on them. Also, learn to manage your emotions, so that you consider how your actions and behavior might affect others.

5. Persuasion

Servant leaders use persuasion – rather than their authority – to encourage people to take action. They also aim to build consensus in groups, so that everyone supports decisions.

There are many tools and models that you can use to be more persuasive, without damaging relationships or taking advantage of others. You should also build your expert power – when people perceive you as an expert, they are more likely to listen to you when you want to persuade or inspire them.

6. Conceptualization

This characteristic relates to your ability to "dream great dreams," so that you look beyond day-to-day realities to the bigger picture.

If you're a senior leader in your company, work through and develop a robust organizational strategy. Then, whatever level you're at, create mission and vision statements for your team, and make it clear how people's roles tie in with your team's and organization's long-term objectives. Also, develop long-term focus so that you stay motivated to achieve your more distant goals, without getting distracted.

7. Foresight

Foresight is when you can predict what's likely to happen in the future by learning from past experiences, identifying what's happening now, and understanding the consequences of your decisions.

You can use tools such as SWOT Analysis and PEST Analysis to think about your current situation and environment, while Scenario Analysis helps you understand how the future could play out. Use the ORAPAPA checklist when you make a decision, to learn from experience and make sure that you've considered all the angles.

Also, learn to trust your intuition – if your instinct is telling you that something is wrong, listen to it!

8. Stewardship

Stewardship is about taking responsibility for the actions and performance of your team, and being accountable for the role team members play in your organization.

Whether you're a formal leader or not, you have a responsibility for the things that happen in your company. Take time to think about your own values, as well as those of your organization, so that you know what you will and won't stand for. Also, lead by example by demonstrating the values and behaviors that you want to see in others, and have the confidence to stand up to people when they act in a way that isn't aligned with them.

9. Commitment to the Growth of People

Servant leaders are committed to the personal and professional development of everyone on their teams.

To develop your people, make sure that you use Training Needs Assessments to understand their developmental needs and give them the skills they need to do their jobs effectively. Also, find out what their personal goals are, and see if you can give them projects or additional responsibilities that will help them achieve these.

10. Building Community

The last characteristic is to do with building a sense of community within your organization.

You can do this by providing opportunities for people to interact with one another across the company. For instance, you could organize social events such as team lunches and barbecues, design your workspace to encourage people to chat informally away from their desks, and dedicate the first few minutes of meetings to non-work-related conversations.

Encourage people to take responsibility for their work, and remind them how what they do contributes to the success and overall objectives of the organization.

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