The servant leadership manifesto is an official framing of the perspective behind our movement. If you seek to be a servant leader or advocate for servant leadership principles in your organization, this is our manifesto.

The Servant Leadership Manifesto

We have a crisis of leadership and need your help. This is our servant leadership manifesto.

The Problem: Toxic Leadership

Business: You see it in business, when narcissistic executives build golden parachutes and steal from tomorrow to make today look good.

Academia: You see it  in Academia when professors forget the students in their march toward self-promotion and prominence in their field.

Religion: You see it in churches where the minister’s name appears above the savior’s.

Non-Profits: You see it in charities that put growth and recognition ahead of the needs of the suffering.

Government: You see it in government when politicians promote themselves over the needs of their constituents.


You see it in every sector,  industry, region and country when leaders forget their priority is to serve their stakeholders first. Yet, there is a small but growing number of us who know there is a better way. That way is called servant leadership…



Yet Another Example

Another executive was arrested today. It’s all over the news. “Executive embezzles millions”, “CFO Defrauds thousands of investors”, “Auditors deny any fault”. And the public cries out, “We need better governance, stronger regulations, tougher penalties!”  Yet, inside we all know that the guilty will always find shortcuts. Toxic leaders will inevitably abuse their power for self-gain. Those of us with the solution know what we really need are more servant leaders.


For those of you who seek only personal fame, fortune and glory, we tell you there is a better way. To those who desire false authority through positional power, we say you will cause more pain, through selfishness and greed than you comprehend. To you toxic leaders we say: observe the true power, real authenticity and sustainability of servant leadership.



The Answer: Servant Leadership

We seek not to lead, but to serve first and find that, in serving, our greatest influence is leading. We seek not to use others for our own gain, but for their benefit and the benefit of their communities.


You say we are too soft and unfit to manage in demanding environments.


But we say some of the greatest servant leaders are military officers who prepare their troops in peace and execute effectively in war.


We say the greatest servant leaders are stronger for their effectiveness in applauding and reprimanding appropriately. The servant leader serves all – including their shareholders, customers, employers and staff – not their ego.


You say good guys finish last.


We say the servant leader runs a different race. The toxic leader runs a sprint. The servant leader runs a marathon.


You layoff by the thousands to achieve a couple cents better on the stock market for a season. We hold others accountable, but layoff as a last resort – only when required for the greater good and long-term sustainability of all stakeholders.


You wage wars under false pretenses and say dirty politics are necessary to achieve your objectives. We wage wars on dirty politics, back stabbing and false pretenses, saying transparency and candor wins in the end.


You say religion has no place in the office.


We say servant leadership is supported by most world religions and even agnostics and atheists with strong morals and ethics.


Your communications are few, tight lipped and reveal only the most refined, highly commercialized messages yet unsubstantiated marketing claims.


We demand active listening, candor and transparency. When we can not be more transparent, we are candid in explaining why.

You seek fame and fortune, magazine covers and lime lights.


We are everywhere, behind the scenes of great success – be it a Fortune 500 or a 5th grade classroom, though you’ve likely never heard our name.


You deflect blame and steal praise.


We pass the praise and pull in the blame.

We are servant leaders. Our time has come. We seek a better way and we hope you will join us.


Call to Action

We do have a crisis of leadership today. Won’t you help us end this crisis by joining the movement to spread awareness, adoption and support of Servant Leadership principles? If you are willing, we have some steps you can take below.


Next Steps

Credit Note: I appreciated the framing from the Hacker Manifesto and used a similar form in the section “Another Example.”


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

13 thoughts on “Servant Leadership Manifesto”

  1. Pingback: Servant Leadership Observer - December 2010

  2. Pingback: Holocaust and the 2008 Financial Crisis - Leadership Lessons

  3. I am writing about Servant Leadership and wish to know about how servant leaders exercise power. Can you recommend some reading ..? Thank you

  4. Does this mean that Mr. Mom’s are great leaders too?  I spent a significant amount of time paying Mr. Mom when my children were young.  I think I learned some valuable lessons in how to get children to do what you want, even when they don’t really want to do it.

  5. Great concept !! I really like this extract from your article “We seek not to lead, but to serve first and find that, in serving, our greatest influence is leading. We seek not to use others for our own gain, but for their benefit and the benefit of their communities”.

    An insight-ful write-up had no clue what Servant Leadership was all about prior to reading this piece  !!! Appreciate your efforts for sharing this to all 

  6. David McCuistion

    The Law of Service: He who wishes to live long must serve; he who wishes to rule will not live long.

    Servant Leaders put other first, above self.
    Servant Leaders lead with humility, shunning arrogance.
    Servant Leaders empower, don’t seek power.
    Servant Leaders collaborate, to seek inclusion.
    Servant Leaders move people to a higher level than they themselves would never achieve.

    I know you know all this Ben. My Quest is to get others to be seekers and learn more about this premier leadership philosophy.

    Keep the Quest Alive my Brother.

  7. Kenneth Barrios

    Very Awesome article and I could not agree with you more. It was the book talking about Servent Leadership that changed my life and my approach as a boss. Made me a thousands time more effective as a leader. Serve first!

  8. Very nice website and message! I am with you. I just completed my doctorate degree focused on Servant Leadership. I scour the internet joining efforts like your own. Thank you for this site!

  9. This is an outstanding message and the basis for how I look to lead not only in business but in the home also. I look forward to continue to discover much of the insight contained on this site. What are the biggest pitfalls you’ve encountered in being a servant leader or is it truly as “basic” as it sounds and I’ve found that it should be?

    1. Glad you like it and welcome to the community, Chris. Understanding what servant leadership is, is not difficult. Practicing it is very hard. I have a video post coming next week, of an interview with Jim Hunter, author of The Servant. In it, he does a wonderful job describing many of the greatest challenges.

      Until then, you may enjoy this post of popular myths about servant leadership:

      Until next time, keep serving!

Comments are closed.

Related Content

Martin Luther King – Celebration of a Servant Leader

Martin Luther King is among the greatest Servant Leaders this world has ever seen. His vision, leadership and ultimate sacrifice blazed a path for millions. There are many great posts, videos and other references that remind us of his vision and social injustices he would fight still today. Below are some of my favorites.

Scroll to Top
We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to enhance your experience. We do not share, sell, or lease your information for any other purpose.