We often use the term servant leadership when we talk about agile, especially the Scrum Master role. Many people think it simply means to help others solve problems. And it is often assumed a servant-leader is touchy feely. But it’s much bigger and more complex than that.
This term originates from an essay written by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. He states that the servant-leader is servant first.
It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
That sounds nice. But what does that really mean?
It’s difficult to explain because there are so many things wrapped up in this term. Here is my take on who the servant-leader is.
Who is the servant-leader?
A servant-leader is courageous. She is willing to lead into the unknown, willing to put forth a strong vision without knowing how to get there.
A servant-leader is deeply self-aware and takes care of herself. In order to best serve others, you must be at your best.
A servant-leader knows how to distinguish the essential from the less important and the urgent.
A servant-leader creates the time and space for reflection, thought, and ideation.
A servant-leader has integrity and invites trust. A servant-leader demonstrates strong values and good judgment.
A servant-leader considers listening their greatest superpower. A servant-leader is comfortable with silence.
A servant-leader is an observer and has a keen awareness of opportunities.
A servant-leader lives in the present moment, and at the same time, has perspective on the bigger picture. She can incorporate what has happened in the past and foresight about the possible future.
A servant-leader is intuitive and is not afraid to let intuition be her guide.
A servant-leader is empathetic and accepting of people.
A servant-leader is fiercely kind. Do not mistake kind with nice or polite. It is kind to tell someone when their performance is not matching their capabilities. It is kind to hold people accountable. It is kind to protect people who are at risk.
A servant-leader builds connection.
A servant-leader constantly pursues her best integrated life.
A servant-leader inspires.
A servant-leader empowers.
A servant-leader is motivated by a greater purpose to help others grow.
A servant-leader knows that all change comes from within.
A servant-leader knows that leadership means taking responsibility for your world.