Putting It Into Context: 5 Traits of a Servant-Leader

“You have to be a servant before being a leader.”

—DiAnn Mills

We hear about the concept of being a servant-leader all of the time. Be it in the workplace, church, or at home, it’s often discussed. Sometimes, we may talk about it so much that we lose sight of what it means.

The quote above comes from a writers conference I attended at the beginning of June, and it holds a lot of value to me. To me, a servant leader possesses the five traits below.

  1. Humility. This is a huge one. At the conference, I saw humility put into practice. Many faculty were giants in the profession. Agents. Editors. Writers. Yet these faculty remained accessible, not just at mealtimes, during class, or at fifteen-minute appointments but also at other times when conferees needed encouragement or a listening ear.
  2. Empathy. Servant leaders have empathy in spades. At my day job, we have various levels of staff from our Division Director down to administrative staff. While our former Division Director didn’t need to know every detail of everyone’s life, he always took the time to listen when needed.
  3. Willingness. Servant-leaders pitch in when needed, from leading meetings to running copies if asked. One of my favorite examples comes from my day job. As each annual holiday party approached, our former Division Director would take it upon himself to clean out the office refrigerator. Mind you, this is no small task. He’d send out the warning e-mail that everything old, including the container it resided in, would be chucked after a certain date. Then he went to work. He wasn’t afraid to take on a task others might assign to staff.
  4. Gratitude. I’m a firm believer that the words “thank you” can never be used enough. At my day job, I have charge of two pretty big programs. I rely on administrative staff and others to help fulfill the duties of each. In June, we had our first in-person training for one of our programs. It required a lot of copying. When we had collated all of our notebooks, I made sure to express my gratitude to each of the administrative staff who pitched in.  A good leader will never cease to express sincere appreciation for all that those under their care do. It goes miles for morale.
  5. Teachability. It’s easy, especially after many years in a career where responsibilities have increased, to have pride creep into the scene where we think we know it all or that we “own” what we do. We don’t. Far from it. We can all learn in our jobs, and every product we produce, be it funding for a project or a book, is the result of a group effort.

Being a servant-leader is hard. We have to keep humility at the forefront and be empathetic with those we work with. We have to be willing to serve in different roles and thank those who work for us. Finally, we have to remain teachable because we can always learn something about whatever we do. It’s hard, but I encourage you as a leader to embrace these traits.

Servant-leaders have greater responsibilities than their job duties. #authenticity #encouragement Click To Tweet

Question: Where have you learned the necessity of being a servant-leader?

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