Few leaders I have met have told me they think becoming more of a servant leader is bad. The challenge many leaders face is knowing exactly how to develop the mindset of a true servant leader.

What is a Servant Leader?

A servant leader is someone “whose actions and motivations reflect a selfless commitment to a cause, an organization, or their teammates.” (Kouzes & Posner) Compare this to a traditional leader, whose actions and motivations reflect more focus on driving results and growing the organization. The great thing about true servant leaders is that they also drive results and grow the organization. John Maxwell calls it the Law of Addition, from his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership—leaders add value by serving others.

5 Components of a Servant Leader Mindset

To develop a servant leader mindset, there are five areas a leader must embrace.

First, a leader must examine themselves for intent or motive. What drives you? Are you motivated by serving and empowering the people on your team to be successful, or are you motivated by a desire to grow revenue and profit? Your intent will reveal itself in your daily agenda and everything you say and do.

Second, a leader must be physically and emotionally present with their team. A traditional leader might provide instruction and guidance to their team. A servant leader does all that and then makes themselves available to provide additional support in executing the work. Servant leaders are fully engaged in what their team members are doing.

Third, servant leaders provide for the needs of the people on their team. The provision could come in the form of tools and resources to do their job, personal development to help them grow as people, and even help to remove obstacles that hinder them in their personal lives.

Fourth, servant leaders are known for their ability to care. They care about their people first and anything that affects their people. Servant leaders care for how their people work and where they work. With a high level of care, a servant leader puts the needs of others first and helps put others in a position to win.

And fifth, servant leaders reward those on their team. They reward and celebrate the efforts, progress, and results of people on their team. Traditional leaders also reward, but it is usually focused on results only. When you reward effort and progress, you promote a growth mindset in others. People will engage at a higher level and invest in their growth to help improve their performance.

Does it Work?

Servant leaders put people first, knowing that if people are valued, equipped, and made to feel welcome, safe, and relevant, they will engage at a high level, leading to greater performance. Being a servant leader is being a warrior for your people. When you fight for them, they fight for your business.


Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.