Servant Leadership and 10 Examples Will Change Your Agile Approach

Are you tired of hearing about the same old leadership styles that seem to be all about bossing people around? Do you believe there’s a better way to lead—one that focuses on empowering and lifting others up, rather than pushing them down? Let’s face it..

Maybe this article can make your day. We are about to explore the magical world of servant leadership and agile servant leadership, a powerful approach that puts the needs of your team front and center. By embracing a selfless, people-first mentality, you can create a workplace that thrives on collaboration – It’s more the WE and Why. The beauty of servant leadership, and it’s more than just a pipe dream—it’s a reality for many successful organizations.

Servant Leadership is Around Over 50 Years

The concept of servant leadership was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, “The Servant as Leader.” Greenleaf’s philosophy is that great leaders are those who prioritize the needs and aspirations of their followers, working tirelessly to empower and enable them to reach their full potential. Servant leaders are characterized by their deep sense of empathy and active listening. They are commited to the personal and professional growth of their team members.

Servant Leadership is Coming to Your Town

So, grab your favorite leadership cape (come on, we know you have one), and let’s dive into our list of the Top 10 Examples of Servant Leadership. You’ll be inspired by the remarkable individuals who’ve embraced this transformative leadership style and left a lasting impact on their teams and organizations. Let’s get started!

Top 10 Examples of Servant Leadership That Occur Everyday

1. Teamwork at the Grocery Store Checkout: Empathy and Helping Customers Together

Let’s imagine a cashier at a local grocery store who, noticing a customer struggling to reach an item, leaves their station to help. This act demonstrates empathy and willingness to serve. However, the potential negative side effect could be longer waiting times for other customers at the checkout line, leading to dissatisfaction.

Just as Simon Sinek often emphasizes the importance of the “why” behind actions, servant leadership in the context of a grocery store checkout can be understood through the lens of the cashier’s willingness to help. They may offer to bag the groceries for an elderly customer or suggest the quickest queue. That way it will demonstrate, empathy and understanding. The truth of servant leadership here lies in their commitment to meeting the needs of customers before their own, much like Cy Wakeman encourages leaders to put the needs of their team before their own to foster a better working environment.

2. Building an Inclusive Team Culture: A Collaborative Morning Routine

A team leader should start every day with a virtual huddle, giving every team member an opportunity to share their goals for the day. This fosters an inclusive environment, but it could also lead to unnecessarily long meetings if not managed properly, impacting productivity.

Leaders like Cindy Solomon encourage other leaders to create a culture of courage, where everyone feels safe to be themselves. In an everyday scenario, this could be as simple as an inclusive morning routine. A parent, for instance, might involve their children in making decisions about breakfast, helping them feel valued and included. Try to Include your team into decision making makes the difference. This practice of fostering inclusivity from the beginning of the day helps to develop a sense of belonging, a key component in servant leadership.

3. Leadership during Crisis: Guiding a Group through a Tire Blowout

When a tire blows out during a road trip, the driver quickly takes control of the situation, changing the tire while keeping everyone calm.

The leader in this scenario is the individual who keeps calm, reassures everyone, and takes the necessary steps to remedy the situation. This mirrors the philosophy of John C. Maxwell, who believes that leadership is about guidance and support. A good leader, he suggests, is one who steps up in times of crisis, providing the necessary direction and support to navigate through the challenge. This situation might show strong leadership, but if done without explaining or involving others, it can create an over-dependence on the leader for problem-solving in future situations. So, in this case, considering a good balance is key.

4. Empowering the Overlooked: Recognizing and Encouraging Team Contributions

A manager notices that a quieter team member’s contributions are often overlooked and starts publicly acknowledging their input. This encourages and validates their contributions. However, if not balanced, it could create a perception of favoritism, leading to resentment within the team.

At work, an overlooked coworker can be uplifted by a leader who sees their contributions and ensures they are acknowledged. Sally Helgesen emphasizes this aspect of leadership, arguing that it’s the role of a leader to recognize the value that every individual brings to the team. Validating and encouraging the contributions of all members, regardless of their role, is a clear demonstration of servant leadership.

5. Community Teamwork: Neighborhood Cleanup and Shared Responsibility

A community leader organizes a neighborhood cleanup day. This action fosters collective responsibility. On the flip side, if participation is enforced rather than encouraged, it could breed resentment among those who feel their personal time is being infringed upon.

Organizing a neighborhood cleanup event is a classic example of servant leadership. In line with Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick’s belief in the power of teamwork, a leader who initiates such an event is fostering a sense of collective responsibility. The leader in this scenario is not just delegating tasks, but also participating, and fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility.

6. Cultivating Future Leaders: The Power of Mentorship in Team Dynamics

A senior employee takes a promising new recruit under their wing, offering guidance and sharing expertise. This investment in future leaders is key to company growth. However, if the mentorship becomes overly time-consuming, it may detract from the senior employee’s own responsibilities and productivity. Leaders like John Mattone advocate for developing future leaders. This can be seen in everyday life through moments of mentorship. Whether it’s an experienced colleague sharing their insights with a junior employee, or a coach nurturing the skills of a promising athlete, these are instances of servant leadership. The focus is on empowering others to grow and succeed, which is a key element of servant leadership.

7. Coaching with Heart: Balancing Team Success and Individual Growth

A Little League coach prioritizes the well-being of the kids over winning at all costs. While this nurtures personal growth, it could lead to frustration among those players – and their parents – who are primarily focused on winning. In that example it focuses not only on winning the game but also on the well-being and growth of the players embodies servant leadership. This approach aligns with Simon Sinek’s belief in the importance of leaders who prioritize the needs and development of their team members. The coach, in this case, demonstrates servant leadership by ensuring that each player feels valued, supported, and motivated to improve.

8. The Advocate Leader: Championing Team Achievements and Fostering Recognition

An employee consistently thrives for the accomplishments of their peers without seeking recognition for themselves. While this is commendable, if they consistently downplay their own achievements, they may be overlooked for promotions or receive recognition they actually deserve. An unsung hero in the office who consistently acknowledges and elevates the work of others embodies the ethos of servant leadership. Will this work? Well, Cy Wakeman often discusses how effective leadership involves reducing drama and ego in the workplace. When a team member regularly champions the accomplishments of others without seeking recognition for themselves, they demonstrate this principle in action.

9. Leading Through Empathy: The Art of Compassionate Listening in Teamwork

A friend is always ready to lend an ear and offer comfort or advice, embodying the qualities of a servant leader. However, if they continually prioritize others’ needs over their own, they may end up neglecting their personal well-being or feeling emotionally drained. The compassionate listener in your life, the one who makes time to understand your feelings and provides comfort or advice, is an everyday example of a servant leader. Cindy Solomon talks about the importance of having courageous conversations that foster understanding and resolution. This kind of leadership requires high emotional intelligence and a genuine desire to support others.

10. Volunteering as Servant Leadership: Strengthening Communities through Team Efforts

A volunteer spends their weekends working at a local food bank. Their selflessness and dedication to community embody the spirit of servant leadership. But if they don’t balance their volunteering with personal time, they may risk burnout or neglect of their own needs. Morover it can result into missing own responsibilities and some deadlines. The humble volunteer at the local food bank, who tirelessly dedicates their time and energy for the betterment of their community, is another everyday example of servant leadership. Drawing parallels with Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick’s view on cultivating a thriving team culture, this individual foster a similar sense of community, collaboration, and shared purpose. Their selflessness and dedication serve as a powerful testament to the values of servant leadership.

Let’s put this together….

Servant Leadership SituationWhy it is considered as Servant LeadershipWhat was the EffortWhat is the Outcome
Grocery Store CheckoutDemonstrating empathy and willingness to helpOffered to help cashierReduced stress, faster checkout
Inclusive Morning RoutineFostering an inclusive environmentGreeting all colleaguesEnhanced collaboration
Tire BlowoutProviding support and guidanceAssisted motoristEmpowered individual
Overlooked CoworkerEncouraging and validating contributionsIncluded coworker in meetingBoosted self-esteem, engagement
Neighborhood CleanupFostering collective responsibilityOrganized cleanup eventCleaner, more connected community
Mentorship MomentInvesting in future leadersMentored young professionalEnhanced career growth
Little League CoachPrioritizing well-being and growthCoached youth sports teamDeveloped sportsmanship
Unsung HeroAdvocating for others’ accomplishmentsRecognized colleague’s workIncreased morale, motivation
Compassionate ListenerOffering support and understandingListened to friend/familyStrengthened relationship
Humble VolunteerSelflessness and dedication to communityVolunteered at local nonprofitsMade a positive impact
Table that Summerizes Everyday Servant Leadership Situations

Adapting to a New Era of Leadership: Unveiling the Synergy of Agile Servant Leadership

Leadership, as these everyday examples above demonstrate, are not just about wielding power or authority. It’s about the success of others.

As we reflect on the virtues of servant leadership, it is important to recognize the evolution and adaptation of this timeless approach in today’s dynamic world. I think that the transition from traditional servant leadership to agile servant leadership represents a powerful shift, combining the core values of service, humility, and empowerment with the principles of agility, adaptability, and responsiveness. In this section, let’s explore the key differences between these two approaches, highlighting the unique strengths of agile servant leadership as an innovative and powerful way to lead in a rapidly changing environment.

One of the most significant differences between traditional servant leadership and agile servant leadership is the emphasis on flexibility and adaptability in the latter. While traditional servant leadership focuses primarily on the needs of the team and the individuals within it, agile servant leadership goes a step further, recognizing the importance of change and responding swiftly to emerging challenges and opportunities that occur. This agile mindset enables leaders to navigate uncertainty more effectively, empowering their teams to thrive in an increasingly complex world.

Art picture of a man in a blue suit holding several office gadjets in the hands.
Symbolic Picture of an Agile Servant Leader Trying to Multitask

Another powerful distinction lies in the way agile servant leadership fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement. By integrating agile principles, such as iterative development and feedback loops, agile servant leaders create an environment where teams are encouraged to learn from their experiences, experiment with new ideas, and refine their approaches over time. For example, Google is known for its flexibility and agility. They let employees to devote 20% of their work time to pursue their own projects and ideas, fostering innovation and creativity. This policy, known as the “20% time,” allows employees to explore new concepts that may not be directly related to their main job but could potentially benefit the company. The result is an agile and fluid work environment that constantly adapts to changes. Notable products such as Gmail, Google News, and AdSense have originated from this unique approach. This continuous improvement mindset not only drives innovation and growth but also nurtures a strong sense of ownership and accountability within the team.

A third key difference is the emphasis on cross-functional collaboration and communication in agile servant leadership. While traditional servant leaders are known for their ability to listen and empathize with their team members, agile servant leaders take this a step further by actively promoting open dialogue and collaboration across different functions and roles. By breaking down silos and fostering a culture of transparency, agile servant leaders enable their teams to harness the collective wisdom and diverse perspectives of all members, leading to more informed decision-making and creative problem-solving.

In conclusion, the transition from traditional servant leadership to agile servant leadership marks a powerful evolution in the way we approach leadership in the modern era. By combining the timeless virtues of servant leadership with the adaptability, continuous improvement, and collaboration inherent in agile principles, agile servant leadership offers a uniquely powerful and effective way to lead and inspire teams in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world.

Agile servant leadership is grounded in the belief that a leader’s primary role is to serve and empower their team, fostering a collaborative and adaptive environment. In my journey as a leader, I have found that this approach has led to increased trust, motivation, and innovation within my teams.

One of the most striking aspects of agile servant leadership is its biblical roots. The concept is beautifully illustrated in the Gospel of Mark (10:43-45), where Jesus teaches his disciples that, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This powerful verse serves as a constant reminder that true leadership is about selflessness. You can read more about teamwork in the bible here.

However, like any leadership style, agile servant leadership has its pros and cons. Some of the key advantages include:

Empowerment: By putting the needs of the team first, servant leaders create an environment where individuals feel valued and supported, leading to higher levels of engagement and performance.

Flexibility: Agile principles promote adaptability and responsiveness, allowing teams to quickly pivot in the face of change and seize new opportunities.

Collaboration: Agile servant leadership fosters a culture of open communication and teamwork, encouraging the sharing of ideas and the co-creation of solutions.

On the flip side, there are potential challenges to consider:

Decision-Making: Agile servant leaders may struggle with decision-making, as their focus on consensus-building and empowerment can sometimes lead to slower or less decisive actions.

Authority: Servant leaders may face resistance from those who equate leadership with a more traditional, top-down approach, leading to potential misunderstandings or conflicts.

Despite these challenges, we believe that the benefits of agile servant leadership far outweigh its drawbacks. One of the best ways to develop this style of leadership is through comprehensive servant leadership training. Such training programs not only equip leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge but also provide a supportive environment for personal reflection and growth.

In conclusion, agile servant leadership is a transformative approach that has the power to create a more collaborative, adaptive, and humane workplace. You can read more about other leadership styles here. By embracing this style and investing in servant leadership training, we can cultivate a new generation of leaders who prioritize service, humility, and the greater good.

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