The idea of servant leadership is simple: that the leader serves the followers (or a cause, which benefits the followers in some way).
A leader who embodies servant leadership is not leading for reasons of status, wealth, popularity or lust for power.
Instead, a servant leader wants to make a positive difference to the benefit of all - or at least the majority - of followers. Crucially a servant leader also tends to do this knowingly and willingly at his or her own cost and, as mentioned by Robert Greenleaf, are not servant leaders if their actions cause suffering or disadvantage to others.
Some writers, for example Larry Spears, a former president of the Robert K Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership, have highlighted typical characteristics of a servant leader. A few are as follows;
Listening, motivation, empathy, awareness, healing, persuasion, conceptualisation, foresight, stewardship and commitment to other people’s growth and community spirit.
Greenleaf, Robert K. The Servant As Leader. (1991) Indianapolis, IN: Robert K. Greenleaf Center, 1991. Print.
Greenleaf, Robert K et al. Servant Leadership. (2002) New York: Paulist Press, 2002. Print.