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What Some People Don’t Understand About Servant Leadership

Serving the people you lead does not mean you coddle them. It means you care for them.

In some circles, the term Servant Leader, has become a buzzword. It is thrown around as a core value or turned into an expectation in an organization. But, this invaluable concept has become vastly misunderstood. When some people hear the term “Servant Leader” they think it means soft leadership. They believe it means everyone gets their way. They might even think it means their job is to make everyone happy or let others walk over them. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Leaders of Character are Servant Leaders. But serving the people you lead does not mean you coddle them. It means you care for them. When you care for someone, you not only praise them, you have tough conversations with them as well. When you care for someone, you don’t just answer their questions, you take the time to develop their decision-making skills.

It is selfless to be a Servant Leader in such situations. Some people choose not to engage in a difficult conversation because “Conflict makes me uncomfortable.” Unfortunately, this means that leader chose their own comfort over making somebody else better. Ultimately, this is selfish.

Some might retort, saying, “I don’t have time to explain it all.” In this case, the leader values their time over the development of someone they are called to lead. That is selfish.

Serving others by having those tough conversations means you must exercise Courage. Selflessness and Courage work together when we work past our desire for comfort and make it a priority to make another person better.

Serving others by sharing your experience and training them how to think through decisions, means you exercise Humility. Selflessness and Humility work together when you put aside what’s best for you at the moment, and do what is best for someone else in the long run.

When you combine Courage, Humility and Selflessness together—you get a Servant Leader who is strong enough to do their Duty. The idea that a Servant Leader is a weak leader is a misnomer. It takes a great deal of strength to do what makes you uncomfortable or to delay your own gratification for the good of another person.

Each time we make the choice to exercise Selflessness, we are getting stronger and more Courageous. With each decision, we get closer to becoming a Leader of Character who serves others—with Courage and Humility.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Do you believe Servant Leadership is often misunderstood? If so, what factors do you think are often overlooked?

  • How is Servant Leadership actually a strength?


Taking responsibility and exercising Selflessness is a lifelong journey for not only you, but your team. We want to partner with you as you make Selflessness part of your organizational culture.

When it comes to remembering the definition of Selflessness, let us help to make it easy to keep it visible.

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