Discussion of Servant Leadership

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 1
Words: 429
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: Bachelor

The concept of servant leadership differs significantly from other leadership theories primarily in that it has a pronounced moral and ethical emphasis, “overturns” the role of a leader (instead of a leader walking “in front of” the followers, a servant leader is “behind” them), and the fact that not only people but also organizations can be servant leaders (Lee et al., 2020). The term servant leadership was first coined by Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader” (as cited in Eva et al., 2019). The work of a servant leader is primarily aimed at helping followers grow; at the same time, the leader’s effectiveness is expressed in the fact that his followers themselves begin to become servants.

The emphasis on the development of followers has allowed a number of researchers to classify the concept of leadership-service as transformational or transforming leadership since, according to both approaches, a leader is a mentor who helps followers grow and develop (Eva et al., 2019). As opposed to “classical” leadership theories (transactional leadership), the concept of transformational leadership suggests that leaders and followers interact to help each other become better in all areas of life. At the same time, unlike transactional leadership, in which only the leader wins, both parties receive the gain. However, there is a fundamental difference between transformational leadership and service leadership in how these concepts view a leader’s motivation. Initially, the servant leader occupies a peripheral position in the group, providing the group with resources and support without expecting to receive any reward. For example, they do not wait for the recognition of their merits or obtaining formal status. However, behaving in this way, they gradually become vital to the group and, often against their will, find themselves in a leader’s position. In other words, servant leaders initially do not want to be a leader but become one because others need it. This fundamentally distinguishes the servant leader from the “classical” leader, who initially wants to lead others.

Thus, the concept of leadership as service differs from other leadership theories in that it is based on a specific view of the motivation of a leader. In the case of service leadership, the leader’s motivation is derived from a deep conviction that he is no better than his followers (Lee et al., 2005). An example of such a leader is Martin Luther King Jr., who led the civil rights movement and supported peaceful protests and demonstrations to bring about national change. King’s commitment to helping his fellow men, reflected in his heroic actions, is a true model of leadership as service.


Eva, N., Robin, M., Sendjaya, S., van Dierendonck, D., & Liden, R. C. (2019). Servant leadership: A systematic review and call for future research. The leadership quarterly, 30(1), 111-132.

Lee, A., Lyubovnikova, J., Tian, A. W., & Knight, C. (2020). Servant leadership: A meta‐analytic examination of incremental contribution, moderation, and mediation. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 93(1), 1-44.