5 Attributes of A Servant Leader: What It Takes To Build A More Engaged Workplace

The 2024 edition of the World Happiness Report found that, for the first time since 2012, the United States has fallen outside of the top 20 happiest countries. What’s more, it showed that the unhappiest group of Americans are individuals aged 30-44–the same folks who make up a significant portion of the workforce. Given the amount of time the average person spends at work (90,000 hours in a lifetime!), it’s safe to say that our workplace environment has the potential to make a huge impact on happiness. 

With this in mind, it’s more critical than ever that leaders find ways to promote the wellbeing of their teams. Servant leadership equips teams to do just that. Where do you start? Are there attributes managers can practice to build a culture of servant leadership within organizations? We believe there are. In our experience, leaders who internalize and live out these values are best positioned to help their teams thrive and their organizations succeed. 

Serve > Being served 

Servant leaders reject the premise that their teams exist to serve them. Instead of focusing on their own interests, agendas, and gains, they look for opportunities to elevate those around them. Simply put, servant leaders serve. Servant leaders strive to pour into those around them. This mindset requires humility, and for many people, a fundamental reframing of how leaders and their teams interact. 

Sacrifice > Comfort 

Developing team members, investing in culture, and ensuring mission alignment requires energy, financial resources, and time. Often, this kind of intentionality means setting aside your own platform and ego. Although these things might make folks more comfortable in the short term, conscientious sacrifice and going all in is what moves the mission forward. 

Actions > Words 

We all know the old adage that “Actions speak louder than words,” and this saying holds true for servant leaders. Perhaps better stated, words matter very much, and actions must be consistent with words. Marketing slogans, mission statements, and HR policies will ring hollow if they aren’t supported by thoughtful and consistent action. Servant leaders walk the talk.   

Open-handed > Tight fisted  

When folks operate with tight fists, they approach their work and others with a scarcity mindset. This perspective says that there aren’t enough resources, ideas, finances, or relationships to go around. Open-handedness, however, frees leaders to work from a place of abundance. Rather than assuming a defensive and self-protective posture, open-handedness invites leaders to see their colleagues and even competitors as collaborators working toward shared goals. Approaching their work open-handedly looks like giving freely, bringing others towards a greater unifying purpose, and understanding that “we” is greater than just “me.” 

Gratitude > Entitlement 

Servant leaders approach their talents, successes, life, and relationship with gratitude and understand that all they have is a gift. They reject the idea that life or others owe them something. A humble perspective frees servant leaders to pour into others –intentionally encouraging and supporting those around them in their career journeys. 

You become a servant leader by practicing the principles of servant leadership. These five traits are a great place to start. Servant leadership creates an environment where individuals can grow and collaborate, and a healthy culture can thrive. In a time marked by unhappy people, servant leaders can make a big difference by making their organizations better, more enjoyable places to be, and in turn, their organizations are stronger and more productive.  To learn more about building a culture of servant leadership, schedule a complimentary consultation. Email us at info@risingsunconsultants.com. 

Want to hear what servant leadership principles look like in action? In this conversation Diamondback Covers CEO Ben Eltz and CPO Morgan Forney discuss how they’ve built an enjoyable workplace by focusing on four bottom lines: finance, customers, community, and employees. Eltz and Forney illustrate how, even as a for-profit company, it’s possible to balance engagement and growth. Listen to the episode >>

###Rising Sun is a leadership and organizational consulting firm committed to the development of servant leaders, engaged employees, and healthy organizational cultures. We’re truth tellers who balance candor and care, and for two decades we’ve been a trusted guide and partner to family-owned companies, multinational firms, and nonprofit organizations alike. Start a conversation with us (info@risingsunconsultants.com) or learn more on our website (www.risingsunconsultants.com).

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