15 Characteristics of the Servant Leadership Style

Being a leader is much more than just barking orders and signing papers as leadership shifts to become more personal. The servant leadership style is one such example where leaders are helping and pushing their peers rather than just leading them around. Let’s look at 15 characteristics that make for an effective servant leader.

1. Considerate
Serving others means taking their emotions and worries into your own hands for safekeeping. Being a considerate leader means that you are willing to hear what people have to say and do your best to help them out while not overburdening them in their situation.

Asking those you work with how they are doing and making sure everyone is feeling well will make you a leader people are happy to follow. Taking a genuine interest in the emotions and feelings of others will separate you from those who aren’t really listening and are just trying to be polite.

2. Understanding
Similar to being considerate, a leader who cares for their workers will want to be understanding as a person. Everyone makes mistakes and rather than scolding someone for making one, you want to help them learn from their mistakes so that they can grow and become better because of them.

Being understanding doesn’t always mean intruding on the lives of others but harnessing the skill will make people feel comfortable opening up to you and asking for guidance when it is needed most.

3. Empathetic
Many people seem to get empathy and understanding mixed up when in reality they are quite different. Understanding is acknowledging that others are struggling and letting it go while empathy is embracing their pain and trying to make them feel comfortable in their situation.

Being an empathetic person means that you share in the wins and losses of your workers so that you can get on their level when going through anything. A lack of empathy is often what makes some leaders come off as distant and cold towards employees.

4. Helpful
Even if it’s just picking up lunch for the team every now and then, being a leader that is helpful will make people want to work with you. Offering a helping hand when it is needed to give people some guidance during a challenging task without being overbearing is just the motivation people need to succeed.

A helpful leader can balance just the right amount of guidance while still allowing for earning so that your workers can get on the path they need to be on. It is often the case that being helpful means stepping back and allowing more independence for people to do things in their own style.

5. Deep Listener
You can very easily hear what people have to say, but you become a serious leader when you deeply listen to what people are actually saying. A subtle complaint could really be a serious issue to the worker, and you won’t be able to pick up on their woes if you are listening with the intention to respond.

If you are only listening so that you can respond with advice, then you aren’t really listening at all. Being a servant leader is all about listening to the needs of your people and just half committing to the needs and voices of your people will always end in failure.

6. Introspective
As important as it is to serve others, lacking a sense of introspection will leave you helping others without helping yourself. Being able to look in the mirror and knowing why you are doing what you are doing is something many leaders lack and knowing your reason for leading will make you lead better.

Looking inward will further help you to give others guidance as you can help people with troubles you have faced before so they can get through them easier. Trying to help others without a sense of introspection is like commentating on a sport that you don’t understand.

7. Selfless
The act of selflessness will make you a better person as much as it will help you become a better servant leader. The idea of service has selflessness at its very core and trying to help others without being selfless is nearly impossible. Putting others before yourself will almost always come back positively.

Thinking of how your actions will benefit and affect others before taking action shows a sense of selflessness and compassion that not all leaders take into consideration.

8. Humble
Leadership is always something that you should take in stride but remaining humble will keep it from going to your head and ruining your reputation. Being a humble leader is what will make people see you as a leader who actually cares about their role and is not just a boss who barks orders.

Being humble in your role as a leader will ensure that people feel comfortable working with you and don’t begin to feel bellow you. Staying humble creates a working environment that will benefit everyone in the long run.

9. Sturdy
Helping others and giving people a boost in energy is great for service leadership, but you still need to remain true to who you are and what you stand for. Having a sturdy base of morals and values will ensure that you are not getting in too deep with others and are still setting realistic guidelines.

As a benefit, showing others that you are able to remain stable in a time of panic or confusion will help solidify you as a leader to be looked up to. People are more likely to rely on someone who they feel is unshaken by uncertainty.

10. Unbiased
Being an unbiased leader can really apply anywhere, but when acting as a servant you must remain unbiased to stay true. Having an unbiased leader to rely on means that people will be comfortable working with you on a difficult project because they can rely on you to be rational and unbiased.

Taking some time to understand where people are coming from when settling something means that you can step back and rationally break down a problem. Not letting your emotions control your bias will be your key to success.

11. Realistic
While we would all like to be the helper of all situations, we have to realize where we can and can’t solve a problem. Working with your team to the best of your abilities will help people see you as normal and realistic. Projecting an image of all-knowingness will just make you seem pretentious and fake.

People will appreciate you admitting you don’t know everything as that will make you a better leader in the long run. Reach out and ask for help when needed in times of uncertainty when you really can’t find a solution.

12. Visionary
Looking at some of the greatest leaders throughout time, a common trend is that they are visionaries who can see what is not yet real. One of the strongest motivators to get people working hard and effectively is having a leader who can push them to achieve the unimaginable.

Being a visionary can help you serve others by giving a morale boost and push to the workers that couldn’t exist without you.

13. Ethical
Being ethical may seem like an obvious trait, but not all leaders remember this step when trying to help out. Some people feel like they are serving, but they are really just manipulating others to benefit their own selfish needs in the long run.

People will quickly see what you are really doing and leading with unethical service isn’t really leading at all.

14. Trustworthy
Having people believe in you to push them forward always requires an element of trust to actually get people working. Being a trustworthy leader doesn’t mean just not lying as you need to establish trust and respect from others through your actions. People trust you for what you do, not what you say.

Building trust can be as simple as watching someone’s lunch and can be as deep as handling the finances of an operation. Trust is the foundation of any successful business relationship and needs to be in place before attempting to lead.

15. Engaging
Being a servant is really about getting people feeling like they can lean on you in hard times, and starting that relationship starts with engagement. Being engaging means seriously caring what others have to say and doing what you can to get to know people and their needs on a deeper level than just small talk.

Taking the time to meaningfully engage others will let them open up to your service and let you help. Once you engage with your workers, you will become more like a peer than a leader.


So many great things are to be accomplished by embracing the servant leadership style to help bring growth and better energy to your company. Picking up these 15 characteristics are sure to help you become the leader that people want to follow.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.