Servant leadership is a popular leadership strategy in business today, and it’s easy to see why. This type of leadership focuses on the employees and customers rather than the leader. This creates a more positive work environment and improves customer service.

What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is a business strategy that has recently gained popularity. CEOs like Richard Yu are drawn to it because it benefits employees, customers, and the company. Servant leadership principles differ from traditional leadership in that they focus on the growth and development of employees first and foremost.

Servant leaders are more interested in building community and relationships than in wielding power. They believe that the company will benefit if employees are happy and thriving.

The concept of servant leadership has its roots in religious and philosophical teachings. Robert K. Greenleaf first coined the term in an essay written in 1970. In it, he said that the servant leader is a “servant first” – someone who puts the needs of others above their own.

Who benefits from this leadership strategy?

Servant leadership benefits a business’s employees, customers, and the company. When implementing this philosophy into your company, you can expect improvements in morale, company culture, and financials.


Employees who work for a servant leader feel valued and appreciated. They know their leader is interested in their growth and development, leading to higher job satisfaction and motivation.


When people feel happy and engaged at work, they provide better service to customers. Problems get resolved quicker, which makes customers more likely to become loyal buyers who return to your company multiple times.


The company tends to do better when employees are satisfied and customers are happy. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, businesses that implemented servant leadership saw a 12% increase in profitability and a 34% increase in productivity. Furthermore, these businesses had employee turnover rates that were half of those of traditional companies.

Guiding principles of servant leadership

There are many interpretations of servant leadership, but some common themes exist. These include empathy, healing, self-awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, and commitment to growth.


A servant leader must be able to listen to employees and customers, understand their needs, and respond accordingly. You need to hear what your employees and customers are saying verbally and non-verbally.

A study by the Journal of Applied Psychology reports that customers’ tone of voice and body language can indicate their level of satisfaction with a product or service. The study found that customers who were unhappy with a product or service were more likely to express their dissatisfaction through negative body language and tone of voice. 


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It’s an essential quality for a leader because it allows them to see things from another person’s perspective.

An empathetic leader is more likely to be able to put themselves in their employees’ or customers’ shoes. They understand what it’s like to be in their position and can offer help and support when needed. 


Healing refers to the ability of a leader to help those they lead to grow and develop. CEOs can do this through mentorship, coaching, and support during difficult times. A leader focused on healing will create an environment where employees feel safe to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. They know that their leader has their best interests at heart. 


Self-aware leaders pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses and know what they’re good at and need to work on. Richard Yu believes this quality is vital because it allows leaders to be honest with themselves and their employees. It also allows them to seek out help when needed. 


While it might not be the first characteristic you think of with servant leadership, the art of persuasion is an important one. A servant leader must be able to convince others to buy into their vision and see the potential in those they lead.

Influential leaders can communicate their ideas with conviction. They are also open to hearing other people’s suggestions and feedback. Leaders who can persuade others tend to be more successful in achieving their goals.


The ability to conceptualize is the capacity to see the big picture and understand how the various parts of a system work together. It’s an essential quality for leaders because it allows them to develop innovative solutions to problems. A conceptualized leader can see beyond the current situation and find new ways to improve things. 


Foresight is the ability to anticipate future trends and events. Leaders with this quality can make decisions that will benefit their employees, customers, and the company in the long run. They can think ahead and plan for the future. 


Stewardship refers to leaders’ responsibility to care for those they lead. Protect them from harm, provide for their needs, and support their growth. Leaders who take stewardship seriously understand their duty to those they lead. They are committed to their well-being and development. 

Commitment to growth

A leader committed to growth understands that their employees must develop and grow to succeed. Richard Yu believes it is important for leaders to provide opportunities for learning and development. They also give their employees the space to fail and learn from their mistakes.  

Community building

A leader who builds community creates an environment where employees feel like they belong. They foster a sense of connection and belonging. This can be done through shared values, common goals, and a sense of purpose. Leaders who build community know that their employees are more likely to be engaged and productive when they feel part of something larger.


Final Thoughts

Servant leadership is a growing trend in business. More and more CEOs are drawn to it because of its focus on employees and customers. Servant leadership may be exemplary for you if you’re looking for a leadership style that puts people first.

What do you think of servant leadership? Do you think it’s a good leadership style for business?