Skip main navigation

Characteristics of servant leaders

This article provides the ten characteristics that are central to the development of servant leadership.

In the previous step you were introduced to the concept of servant leadership. In this section, you will deepen your understanding of this leadership style and review the main characteristics of servant leaders.

Ten characteristics of servant leadership

Based on Greenleaf’s definition, Spears (2002) identified ten characteristics that are central to the development of servant leadership:

  1. Listening: Servant leaders use active listening to understand and clarify the needs and wants of followers.
  2. Empathy: Servant-leaders empathize with their followers to interpret their feelings and emotions and understand their intentions and performance.
  3. Healing: Servant leaders learn from failure and recover from setbacks.
  4. Awareness: Servant-leaders are very self-aware and know their strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Persuasion: Servant-leaders use persuasion rather than positional authority when making decisions and influencing followers.
  6. Conceptualization: Servant-leaders have the ability to think conceptually and find an appropriate balance between short-term direction and long-term strategic orientation.
  7. Foresight: Servant-leaders have the ability to understand signals and trends and to foresee future outcomes.
  8. Stewardship: Servant-leaders manage their followers and resources in a diligent manner.
  9. Commitment to the Growth of People: Servant leaders are committed to fostering an environment conducive to the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of followers.
  10. Building Community: Servant-leaders work to develop a sense of community both inside and outside the organisation.

Reflect & Reply

Please reflect upon the key question and respond using the comments section below.

Considering your organisation/team context, which characteristics are important for servant leadership?


Spears, L. (2002). Tracing the Past, Present, and Future of Servant-Leadership. In L. Spear, & M. Lawrence (Eds.), Focus on Leadership: Developments in Theory and Research (pp. 1-16). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

This article is from the free online

How to Harness Followership for Leadership Success

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now