College of Business

Five characteristics of a servant leader 

By Peyton Thompson | April 11, 2023

Servant leadership is one of the most important skills a manager can have. The best leaders are servant leaders. When a leader demonstrates servant leadership, it allows people to feel valued and respected. 

Servant leaders allow people to learn, grow, and become their best. The best leaders share common attributes that allow them to be successful, which I will condense into five characteristics. 

  1. Servant leaders think of others first 

Servant leaders put the needs of others before their own. They are motivated by selflessness, not by self. Thinking of others first allows leaders to make the right decision for a group, not the decision that is best for the leader. 

When people know that their leaders are others-centered and not self-centered, it creates and builds trust. When people trust their leaders, it motivates them to serve their leader and organization as well. 

  1. Servant leaders add value to those around them 

Adding value starts with positivity and encouragement. Encourage those around you and let them know when they have done a good job. Be intentional to build others up, express gratitude, and let the people around you know that the work they do matters. When people feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to produce higher quality work. 

  1.  Servant leaders are good listeners 

First, be an active listener. Allow people to share their thoughts and opinions, and when they do, give them your full attention. When you give someone your full attention, it shows them that they are important. 

Second, be open to learning from those around you. Servant leaders ought to aspire to understand before they try to be understood. Finally, the best leaders not only listen to those around them, but they then act on what they have heard. They use the input from others to enhance ideas, systems, and processes. 

  1. Servant leaders lead by example 

They work hard and set an example for those around them. They set the standard for how things should be done. They know, share, and live out their values. 

Servant leaders do not sit around and give orders. They roll up their sleeves and work alongside their employees. They also treat others the way they want to be treated. If they want to be respected and trusted, they must respect and trust the people around them as well. 

  1.  Servant leaders value both results and relationships 

They are driven towards excellence and achieving high goals, but they also understand the value of prioritizing relationships with those whom they lead. 

They set clear goals and have clear visions for their teams but show compassion and empathy during the pursuit of these goals. They can find a balance between being great and being personal. 

There are many attributes of a servant leader, but these five characteristics are essentials for anyone striving to be a servant leader. 


Peyton Thompson is a fifth-year senior and captain of the volleyball team at Charleston Southern University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in organizational leadership. 


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