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a:Becoming a Servant-Leader

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Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about my leadership style, and after reading an article my husband plucked from his files and gave to me, I’ve figured out I aspire to be a servant-leader. 

Servant leadership was coined by an author and business consultant named Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. He first began formulating the idea after reading a novel about a mystical journey by a group of people on a spiritual quest. A servant-leader is one whose primary motivation is “a deep desire to help others.” 

Here are 10 characteristics of a servant-leader: 
  1. Listening intently to others. 
  2. Having empathy
  3. Helping oneself and others to heal
  4. Awareness in understanding issues involving ethics and values. 
  5. Using persuasion rather than positional authority when making decisions. 
  6. Balancing conceptualization with a “day-to-day” focused approach. 
  7. Using foresight to understand lessons from the past and realities of the present. 
  8. Practicing stewardship and serving the needs of others. 
  9. Commitment to the growth of people. 
  10. Building community.  
Here are ways I consider myself a servant-leader. I try to be more than an editor to writers I work with. With new writers who are interested in contributing to the magazine, I let them know specifically what we are looking for with a detailed set of departments and article topics our magazine seeks. I created this guide myself when I found out we didn’t have one for the magazine. I try to let each writer know something specific I learned or enjoyed from their articles once they’ve been turned in. I also try to match writers with assignments I know they’ll enjoy working on—and they are appreciative. When they ask me if I have other suggestions of publications they can write for, I send them my ideas, along with market resources I think could be helpful. If I sense someone is unhappy, I get to the root of the issue and try my hardest to help solve the problem, whether asking the publisher to track down a missed payment or finding more money in the freelance budget to increase the pay of longtime writers. When I visit local businesses to take photos or get information for an article, I also try and make a small purchase before I leave (see photo above). I can support our economy that way, create goodwill with our publication and forge positive relationships with business owners. 

Sometimes being a servant-leader can be hard, because it’s a lot to take in and I worry about doing things perfectly and making sure I’m treating others fairly. But I also know it’s worth it to nurture a group of writers so that they can create their best work possible. 

As I was writing this post, it occurred to me that this philosophy is one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed working with WOW! Everyone I’ve ever worked with here has a giving heart and a true desire to see other writers learn and succeed. Every day we see servant-leader editors and writers lifting one another up in these blog posts and in the comment section. 

 In the article I read, Practicing Servant-Leadership,” by Larry Spears, I found the following quote: 

"Servant-Leadership is providing a framework from which many thousands of known and unknown individuals are helping to improve how we treat those who do the work within our many institutions. Servant-leadership truly offers hope and guidance for a new era in human development, and for the creation of better, more caring institutions.”  

How have you been a servant-leader, or been served by one of these types of leaders? 


Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.

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