Servant leadership: “The most powerful concept of leadership”

Written by Caroline Roberts Wednesday 09 November 2022
The servant leadership model is a management style designed to get the most out of people. There’s a reason why HRH Elizabeth II and the British Army embraced it. So how can organisations adopt it?
Prince Charles lays a poppy wreath at the Cenotaph in 2018

Remembrance Day will be especially poignant this year. For as long as most of us can remember, the day has been marked by the sight of the late Queen laying a wreath at the Cenotaph to honour those who served.

At the beginning of her reign, she vowed to be a servant of the people and to always strive to be worthy of their trust. And throughout the next 70 years, she continued to embody the concept of servant leadership, a model in which the needs, wellbeing, and development of those being led is the primary focus of the leader.


The term, “servant leadership”, was coined by American business consultant Robert K Greenleaf in 1970 and emphasises behaviours and values such as active listening, empathy and leading by example as opposed to a more autocratic style of leadership.

It also forms an integral part of the British Army’s approach to leadership; “Serve to Lead” is the motto of The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and it’s an ethos encouraged among all ranks, says Major David Love of the Centre for Army Leadership. “Putting the needs of others before yourself is probably the most powerful concept of leadership that anyone can embody or live by. It provides the bedrock of trust in an organisation and trust itself is the single most important ingredient in team success.”

To be a good leader, you need to have the self-reflection skills and the emotional intelligence to take a step back and see how you come across to others, David explains. An effective leader will also know the people they aspire to lead and understand how to get the best out of them.

Developing trust: skills refresher course

Trust is the key to high performance organisations – and the cornerstone of servant leadership. Refresh your skills with these curated activities. Complete three and receive a digital certificate.

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