Servant Leadership, More than a Title

Who knows (or remembers) what an acrostic is? Ding, ding, ding! Time up -- according to, (Noun) a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word, phrase, etc. The acrostic I created uses qualities that I believe make up a servant leader. By no means, does this acrostic represent a limited list of this leadership model. It is a start. I want to break the word down into the tenants of what serving as a leader means.

A leader is a title with meaning. It implies strength, quality, inspires, and instills confidence. Some people don’t see servant leadership as a viable model. In their head, serving implies weakness, subordination, and a lack of power. It is quite the opposite! Servant leadership comes from a place of strength, a controlled power and inner muscle that is strengthened by focusing on others. Kind of like being a superhero that does good for others. Smiles!

S is for stewardship

E is for empathy

R is for relationship

V is for valued

A is for authentic

N is for non-judgmental

T is for time

Stewardship - demonstrating careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care. I cannot think of anything more valuable than the hearts and minds of people that I work with (staff, clients, vendors) and in my life personally. It certainly isn’t about what a person looks like, their title, amount of money in their bank account,or number of things they have. As a servant leader, our job is to recognize the depth of that responsibility and invest in the professional development of our staff and ensure quality control is in place for clients.

Empathy is a word that we are hearing a lot in business conversations. By definition, it means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I find this puzzling when a person that uses the word doesn’t have any real knowledge or clue what it is to experience real hardships like loss of a child, homelessness, war and watching a person die, and having a mental, physical or emotional disability. However, as a servant leader one can listen to the pain and demonstrate true empathy by understanding how to meet the need of the person at that moment.


What are needs? According to Maslow’s theory, the first two are basic needs.

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep. 2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

When basic needs of food, drink, shelter, warmth and sleep are met in a safe environment, stability is brought into an environment. As a servant leader, I want to make sure people can focus on their work….food is always part of the equation when we get together as a group. Food brings and bonds us together. When I teach as an adjunct, I have no problem with people eating in the classroom or bringing snacks for students to munch. It meets one of Maslow’s lowest needs and yields big results. People can concentrate on the subject at hand and it lessens distractions.

Relationship - What does that really mean? Most of us will agree it means to engage or connect with another person. Social channels can certainly extend outreach, however nothing replaces a real face-to-face or phone call that that may have a belly laugh, or tears running down the face relationship that shows we connect and care.

Stages 3 and 4 of Maslow’s hierarchy are based on psychological needs. A servant leader recognizes the need for inclusion, friendship, recognition and respect. Thus, the word relationship and valued are components of stages 3 and 4.

3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).

4. Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prest