Saint Louis University

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership is an approach to serving with and for a community so as to enact the transformation of society for the greater common good.

Servant Leadership Defined

What is Servant Leadership

SLU's Definition of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is an approach to serving with and for a community so as to enact the transformation of society for the greater common good.

Who is a Servant Leader

SLU's Definition of a Servant Leader

A servant leader is a person of vision and character, committed to the greater common good, with the capacity to lead others through shared discernment, planning, and action that will result in social change.

Where does the term Servant Leader come from?

the origins of servant leadership

The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. There are many excellent books and articles about Servant Leadership. For a short bibliography on servant leadership, click here. Books by Robert K. Greenleaf and colleagues of The Greenleaf Center can be found in their online bookstore. To view their selection click here.

the ideal servant leader

The Ideal Qualities of a Servant Leader

self awareness

The discovery and development of our values, principles, areas of strength and character, and our aspirations and dreams; and the understanding that this is a life-long process of reflection and renewal.


An outlook which encourages one to develop a deep desire to serve the poor and/or marginalized in our society so that those who are served grow as persons and become healthier, wiser, and more autonomous.


The intentional consideration of an experience through thoughtful and philosophical contemplation and the ability to foresee the outcomes of one’s decisions.


An awareness of global issues and their direct impact on oneself and one’s community and the knowledge of and appreciation for other cultures through personal interactions, which deepen our knowledge of the world.


The active participation in the process for creating and maintaining social change by integrating an authentic individual passion or desire into one’s activities and involvement.


A desire for more / better; a challenge to think more deeply and a calling to be more with what you are doing.

The Ideal Skills of a Servant Leader


A decision making approach that incorporates sound moral judgment, attention to multiple points of view, and the alignment of personal and communal desires.


The careful and responsible recognition and utilization of a community's personal and material gifts and available resources.

listening / communication

A deep commitment to listening intently and actively to others, which includes hearing what is said, and what is unsaid, and the ability to express ideas and concepts clearly to others.

multicultural competence

The awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to work with others who are culturally different from self in meaningful, relevant, and productive ways (Pope, Reynolds, Mueller, 2004).

community building and empowerment

The development of relationships between various communities and providing those who may be affected by change the power to influence outcomes.

critical thinking

The process of identifying and acquiring new information to aid in the decision-making process.

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