12 Ways Servant Leaders Serve Others so Others are Free to Serve Others

Servant-leadership turns reciprocity outward.

Reciprocity represents a shrinking circle of mutual benefit. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” 

Servant leaders serve others so others are free to serve others.

The normal rules of reciprocity aren’t primary in servant-leadership.


Seek the best interest of others so they are free to serve the best interest of others. 

Self-serving leaders are surrounded by self-protective teams.

12 ways to serve others so others serve others:

  1. Make it safe to serve. Watch people’s backs so they are free to give themselves in service to others. 
  2. Adopt an outward mindset.
    • Take the perspective of others before making decisions.
    • Make life better for others.
    • Remove roadblocks. Don’t create them.
  3. Expect teammates to fully serve organizational mission and vision. Servant-leadership isn’t doormat-leadership.
  4. Respect your impact on others. Self-absorbed leaders see everything as it impacts them.
  5. Laugh at yourself. Don’t take things personally.
  6. Commit to courageously ‘not know’. Growth and learning include not knowing.
  7. Make it easy for others to bring their best selves to work. 
    • Protect others so they don’t have to protect themselves.
    • Let people know they’re supported. It doesn’t matter if you serve customers first or employees first, as long as employees feel supported.
    • Express interest in the potential and future of everyone on the team.
    • Develop, don’t fix.
  8. Be rigid with values and kind during interactions.
  9. Practice vulnerability by letting others know the impact of their performance on you. Leave a bit of yourself in conversations with others.
  10. Be grateful when others express gratitude to you.
  11. Relax. Stay curious about people.
  12. Understand the difference between exploring options, offering advice, and advocating for a position.

Which items on the list seem most useful to you?

How might leaders serve others so others can serve others?