Servant Leader Example (5 Important Styles)

Are you searching for some servant leader examples? Learn more about this in this article

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If you are looking for a servant leader example, this article will give you some. As a project manager, I know that studying the concept of servant leader is important. However, while the theory – the definition – of a servant leader is quite simple, it may be hard to define specific behaviours that are associated with a servant leader. This is why I think you can learn more by looking at a servant leader example.

Throughout the article, we will not make one servant leader example, but several. Since the focus is on examples, we won’t go into the definition of servant leader in details. However, in case you need it, there you have it.

A servant leader is a leader that empowers the team to do the work autonomously, by motivating them and removing roadblocks. It can be said that the servant leader “carries food and water” for the team.

Note that this definition may seem simple, but it is very subtle. It is clear it does not mean an authoritative leader, but it does not mean an hands-off leader either. Let’s start immediately with some examples, this will help you develop a better understanding.

Being a servant leader is also important for the Project Management Institute, and in the PMP certification they expect you to behave in that way.

Servant Leader Example

Removing Roadblocks

The first and most important servant leader example is about removing roadblocks. In fact, this is probably the most critical activity for a servant leader. This means anticipating any situation that can possibly prevent the team from doing the work, and smoothing it out before it becomes a problem.

Imagine the team is doing a training project that involves travelling to many different offices of a large customers to train the employees working there. One office is next to a plant, and it has some strict health and safety requirements to be met, which requires significant documentation and paperwork to be fulfilled. The servant leader takes ownership of the situation, and actively gather and submit all the necessary documentation for all team members, so that when they visit the site they will be granted access.

Removing roadblocks is the most important servant leader
Removing roadblocks is the most critical activity for a servant leader

This may sound like secretarial work, and probably in this case it is. However, an act of servant leadership would be to collect some information and provide clear indication to the team members about what documentation they need to provide, so they can do that autonomously and swiftly. Yet, this is not probably the best approach, because taking care of this bureaucracy reduces the focus of the team, drifting it away from the important things. Since the goal of the servant leader is to keep the team productive, he would be better off taking care of the documentation himself.

Take a moment to let that sink in and crystalize. Yes, this servant leader example includes secretarial work. But that is specifically the point: for the servant leader, no task is beneath her in order to help the team.

Smoothing a Conflict

Our next servant leader example is about smoothing a conflict. After removing roadblocks, this is probably the next most important thing a servant leader does. In fact, a conflict can be a sort of roadblock in the end. To be more specific, a conflict can hurt morale or create disagreement, so that people struggle to work toward the same goal or in the same direction.

Conflict can happen anywhere and between anyone. It may be between team members, between team members and external stakeholders, or even between external stakeholders (without team members involvement). In any case, the servant leader is not shy to step up and intervene to solve the conflict, as it may slow down the team.

Solving a conflict does not mean exclusively to reach a decision. It means ensuring people can adopt that decision without negative long-term consequences. It goes without saying, but forcing a decision onto something is never a good approach, and clearly not a thing a servant leader would do.

Instead, the servant leader begins by listening and understanding all perspective. Then, it takes the conflicting parties and ensure they actually understand the other party’s point of view (which is rarely the case). Once this is done, the servant leader acts as a mediator, as an intermediary that drives the discussion toward an agreement.

Imagine two team members disagree on how they want to paint the wall. One really believes the customer specifically asked for beige, while the other states that pearl white will be much more in the interest of the customer and synced with the rest of the furniture. The servant leader will listen to the discussion, look up for the documentation, and maybe follow up with the customer to see what he wants now (he may have changed idea).

Gathering Resources

We can move on to another servant leader example, the one about gathering resources. Some times, the team needs some resource to continue do the work. This resource can be equipment, cash or budget, or other people, specialists for example.

Imagine the servant leader in this example is working with a team of software developers, and when they start to create the graphic interface for a banking app they will need some consultancy from an User Experience and User Interface designer, which is from another team. The servant leader will need to go to the other team’s manager and discuss this need beforehand, ensuring the team can count on the UI/UX designer when they actually need it.

Another classic example is budget, and this applies especially to large companies. To do a project, the company needs to allocate money to it so that its equipment and salaries can be paid. The servant leader needs to ensure the project is adequately funded and timely funded, so that the team does not have to stop.

When considering budget as part of this servant leader example, remember that it does not mean to amass as much budget as you possibly can. It means to act responsibly and with integrity to ensure project costs are adequately covered. In addition, it means always to understand and follow the company priorities and strategic interests. There might be time in which continuing with the project is actually in conflict with the strategic interests of the company. Being a servant leader does not mean pushing the project forward at all costs.

Bringing Clarity

We can see this servant leader example as a specific variant of smoothing a conflict. Servant leaders are needed in agile projects, where requirements are unclear or changing, and thus we need to trust the team to deliver the best thing. The team can deal with uncertainty, and refine requirements while running the project, but there is a limit to that. Sometimes, there is so much uncertainty that the team cannot move consistently in a direction.

An important Servant Leader Example regards bringing clarity
A servant leader should clarify business requirements to his team

Imagine the management of a bank asked the software team “let’s do an app for our account holders to request loans”. This is a general direction, but what should the app do exactly? Should it be a mobile app, a web app, or both? Should it allow for applications to all type of loans, or only some types of loans, for example home mortgages? Should it be a separate app, or should it be part of the existing banking app? All those are valid questions, and the team shouldn’t be left to wonder.

Instead, the servant leader must go to the management – or any other relevant stakeholder for the matter – to clarify the business requirements, so that the team has a more solid request to start with. Additionally, the servant leader must act as a bridge, being willing to listen the concerns from the team and voice them when trying to understand requirements with the stakeholders. In this way, he can ensure the concerns of the various team members are addressed and the refined requirements are clear enough to start working.

Providing Motivation

The final servant leader example is about motivation. Since the servant leader takes ownership of the morale of the team, she must ensure the team is constantly motivated – both during good and bad times. This is done by empathising with the team, understanding their emotions, and creating an appropriate outlet for them. It means recognizing what is going on with respect, and taking a moment to acknowledge it.

Imagine the team is working toward a deadline to create the banking app mentioned in the previous servant leader example (Bringing Clarity). The team leader listen to the concerns of every member and is able to provide motivation for them, considering every member will need it in a different form. Some may need encouragement, others may need just someone to talk and “vent” about how unreasonable the deadline is. Others needs to be reminded about the importance of this to the company, or the rewards the team or the individual will get by reaching the milestone, for example a monetary award.

All individuals need recognition, so take a moment to thank people when they accomplish something, even more if they go above and beyond. Thanks must be sincere, and no guide can explain or teach how to do it. You are either really tankful, or you aren’t. If you aren’t, and this happen consistently, you may want to consider if you really want to be a servant leader after all, and if so, why is that.

5 Servant Leader Examples in Summary

In this brief guide on servant leader, we did not cover one simple servant leader example, but five. To summarize the various examples in a nutshell:

  • Producing documentation required for the team to safely access an office or factory (removing roadblocks).
  • Talking with the customer when two team members disagree about what the customer requested (smoothing a conflict).
  • Ensuring the team has the User Experience expert by the time they need to start design the user experience (gathering resources).
  • Talk to the management to clarify the requirements of a request to develop an app before giving it to the team (bringing clarity).
  • Recognize people for their small accomplishments, sincerely (providing motivation).

If you are interested in servant leader example, you may be interested also in referent power example. In fact, referent power is often used by servant leaders.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio


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