graphic of 5 ways to become a great servant leader

5 Ways to Become a Great Servant Leader

It doesn’t seem like servant and leader really go together, does it? Well, they can. And, acting as a servant leader in your small business can completely change the way you do business.

The term servant leader was first coined in the 1970s by Robert K. Greenleaf in an essay called “The Servant as a Leader.” Instead of your team serving you, you do everything you can to support and serve your team.

That means that as their leader, you would do everything you can to help your employees grow and succeed. After all, their growth leads to your company’s growth, and their success is your success.

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.”

Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President of Retail, Apple

4 Reasons to Be a Servant Leader

Switching your leadership method to include a servant mindset can greatly improve your company culture. How?

Build Confidence

When you act as a servant leader, you’re telling your team: “I hired you to do a job, and I trust you to do that job. I’m not here to tell you how to do it; I’m here to help you.” That fills your team with confidence and reaffirms their strengths.

Because your team will be more confident in their abilities, they’ll be more willing to learn new skills and set loftier goals for themselves (and actually achieve them) – which leads to higher performance throughout the company.

Increase Engagement

When you strive to serve your employees, they’ll know that you care about their goals and professional growth, so they’ll feel supported. Because of that, they’ll feel more emotionally connected to the company, which means they’ll be more engaged at work.

Improve Retention

Engaged and happy employees stick around longer. Your employees will know that you care about them, listen to them, and respect them, so why would they want to leave you for another company?

And, of course, higher employee retention means you’ll be spending less time and money trying to hire replacements.

Create a Strong Employer Brand

Being a servant leader in your small business will help you attract top talent (when it is time to hire). People want to work in places where their voices are heard and ideas are valued. When you start doing that, word will spread, so people will want to come work for you.

5 Ways to Become a Great Servant Leader

Have I convinced you that it might be time to become a servant leader? Great! Now, how do you do that?

Build It into Your Small Business

Make servant leadership an essential part of your small business by including it in your core values. Because it’s part of your values, you can work to hire people who align with that and also strive to be servant leaders.

Talk to Your Team

Now that servant leadership is central to your business, goout and talk to your team. Don’t just lock yourself in your office all day andonly come out for formal meetings (like all-hands meetings and performancereviews).

Instead, go out on the floor or drop by an employee’s desk. Ask your employees how things are going and if you can do anything to help them do their job better.

If a couple people on your team are holding a brainstorming session, pop in. Instead of telling them your ideas, listen to theirs. Then, say, “You know, that idea sounds really great. What can I do to help bring it to life?”


Your employees are in the thick of it every day. They’re talking to customers and dealing with vendors. So, find out how things are going. And, really listen to their answers. Is your cashier regularly having to deal with irate customers because they had to wait so long to checkout? It might be time to hire some more help, but you won’t know if you’re not listening to your employees.

Your employees will tell you what they need to feel successful, if you listen. But, it can take some time for them to be comfortable telling you. So, ask for their ideas and feedback now – eventually, they’ll start telling you their ideas unsolicited.

Be Humble

Just because you started your small business doesn’t mean you’re the smartest person in the room. You hired everyone on your team because they brought new skills and unique experiences to the table. So, look for ways that you can learn from your employees, instead of feeling like your employees need to learn from you.

Being humble also means that you should always give the person you’re talking to 100% of your attention, even if you have 1,000 things on your to-do list.

Stop Doing Things You’re Not Good At

We can’t all be good at everything. So, instead of pretending like you are, delegate. If you’re not good at a task, or if one of your employees is better at it than you, ask them to take over. This will show your employee that you trust and respect them and will free you up to focus on some bigger picture thinking.

How do you serve your employees?