How to Identify and Hire Servant Leaders

How to Identify and Hire Servant Leaders

Ever heard the term “service leader?” It’s what it sounds like — leaders who make service their priority. For them, leadership centers around the “one for all” musketeer mentality without the “all for me” in return. Servant leaders strive to do more than your typical do-gooder.

Despite human resources education, many professionals still carry around the idea that leaders tell employees what to do, the staff falls in line and that’s the end of it. Identifying and hiring servant leaders benefit companies through their dedication to mission, service and the community.

Here’s what to look for:

1. High Moral and Ethical Standards

One study indicated the most important value to make an effective leader was the possession of high moral and ethical standards, at 67 percent, followed by clearly communicating intent, at 56 percent, through leadership participant feedback. These attributes create a sense of trust in establishing a safe work environment with truly open door communication. When they feel safe, employees relax, and neurologically, their brains’ capacity for creativity, innovation, ambition and social engagement are more likely to engage.

Service leaders say the door is always open and mean it. Likewise, they will not stand for others cheating or taking an unfair advantage not won through hard work and personal effort. They will not stand for harassment either. While they take risks, service leaders do it the right way.

2. Expression of Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Service leaders focus on sharing and understanding the feelings of their employees and not only customers. This attribute allows servant leaders to approach situations from a place of trust to build strong relationships with employees, giving them the benefit of the doubt and trusting their intentions stem from a place of good.

Also read: The Importance Of Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace

Service leaders display highly-developed emotional intelligence. The ability to accurately sense others’ emotions and self-regulate one’s own encourage positive work culture as a leader’s emotional state impacts a company’s financial success and employee work ethic. Service leaders earnestly consider the welfare of their employees.

Research supports the viability of success when managers place employee needs first, including reduced turnover, increased positive customer service experiences and higher work performance. A study surveying 961 employees of Jason’s Deli under service leadership found a 50 percent boost in staff retention, eight percent increase in positive customer service reviews and six percent rise in job performance.

3. Urge to Serve From Youth

They demonstrate an uncanny need to serve others from childhood before this was taught to them by their parents. Service is more than obligation.

William Damon, director of the Stanford Center for Adolescence, says these activities can produce capacity for purpose in later life but should be enjoyed by youth as meaningful work. From youth, these servant leaders recognized a defect beyond themselves needing filling, such as families going hungry, and how processes could be improved. More importantly, they realized and believed they were personally capable of producing efforts that would create change and set about it.

These efforts stem from an urge to serve and not obligatory actions, which many teens face growing up. Adolescents may face difficulties developing and following through on an action plan, but for the service leader, purpose-driven and meaningful service unto others were more than a school requirement or project.

4. Actively Serve Others Today

The urge to serve as a youth continues to the present day for service leaders and evidence of their efforts to help the community and world-at-large persists. Jake Harriman says servant leaders must put themselves last to finish first, implementing new solutions for old challenges to build a strong staff and work culture capable of withstanding seismic changes in business. Harriman is the CEO and Founder of Nuru International, a social venture that encourages others in rural and remote areas to fight poverty in their communities after his own exposure to such environments during his tours in the Middle East.

Evidence of actively serving the community outside of work duty today will be present. The urge to serve others will continue from youth, impacting the depth of purpose and dedication to conducting meaningful work to create positive change.

Hiring managers should look for a combination of high ethical standards, strong emotional intelligence and an urge and evidence of active service unto others in leadership candidates. These service leaders dedicate themselves to placing employees first and themselves last with benefits to company success as they look toward the future with clarity and purpose.


Neuroscience In The Workplace ebook - How Understanding The Brain Can Transform Your Business

Download the eBook and learn how to use neuroscience to attract the right talent, retain high-performing employees and foster collaborative teams.

Get your free copy


Image licensed from

2018-03-13T15:27:36+00:00 By |Leadership|

About the Author:

Sarah Landrum
Sarah Landrum is a career expert and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and happiness site for young professionals. Want more advice on keeping employees happy and engaged? Follow Sarah on social media and subscribe to her newsletter.

Leave A Comment