The Duality of Servant Leadership

Being a Servant Leader is not about being a servant

Servant Leadership is a common strategy employed in software engineering departments. Popularized by the agile movement and the establishment of Scrum Masters and Agile Coach’s as servant leaders for a team or the organization, servant leadership aims to empower teams and aid them in service to the team’s goal. Originally coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 60’s and 70’s, many thought leaders such as Ken Blanchard and John C. Maxwell expanded on the concept. One of my favorite books on the subject, edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell is Servant Leadership in Action which includes essays from dozens of leaders on different aspects of servant leadership.

One concept that is overlooked on the subject is the duality of servant leadership. Too often I see people dismiss or poorly implement servant leadership because they focus on the servant part and forget about the leadership piece. Being a servant is about taking orders, doing what is asked of you, and being a support to those around you. These individuals miss the aspects of leadership of having a vision, leading from out front, and being proactive. A servant leader. must serve, but they must also serve according to a vision. A servant leader must posses both sides to be a true, effective servant leader.