Why You Should Start with Servant Leadership

“They just don’t get it! Servant Leadership will never work here.” I hear this frustration all the time. While I disagree, particularly with the absolute of “never”, I confess it is more difficult to embed Servant Leadership in an organization that did not begin with these principles.

A rising tide is lifting a blue sailboat

Reasons to Start with Servant Leadership

There are many reasons to practice Servant Leadership. Let’s focus on why it’s important for an organization just starting out, to practice the principles. Whether you are an entrepreneur creating a new business or a manager building a new team within an existing company, here are the top reasons to embed Servant Leadership principles, from the start:

1. Point to the Founders
Throughout the existence of your organization, people will always look back to the founders. There is something magical, a bit mysterious and almost mythical about founders. They build the foundation for the future. So 50 years from now, when they write the history books, how do you want to be remembered?

2. Culture is Strongest at the Start
Most start-ups have a strong culture. There’s a reason for that – the start-up has the greatest opportunity to tailor it’s culture. They’re not fighting embedded bad habits.

3. Easier to Hire
In the start, money is often tight. Therefore, you especially seek to hire employees that prioritize respect and engagement over fiscal compensation. What better way to reflect this perspective than through Servant Leadership?

4. People are Hard to Change
Once a culture is embedded, it’s far more difficult to change that culture as the people resist change.

5. Momentum
Once a culture of entitlement and self-preservation exists momentum is against you. Build the momentum for Servant Leadership from the start and you’ll keep momentum on your side.

Rising Tides

The above are great reasons to start with servant leadership. As noted, doing so will make embedding and sustaining these principles easier. That said, there is no excuse for not starting Servant Leadership wherever you are and whenever you can. Without someone starting a movement somewhere, sometime, nothing will ever change. Remember:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Back to my friend, complaining that their organization will, “never adopt Servant Leadership”. How do I respond?

“They may not adopt it as a whole, but you and your team may. Your peers may adopt it as well. Then, the broader organization can witness the success and results you achieve through the power of serving stakeholders. Remember, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. Contribute to our rising tide of Servant Leadership adoption.


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

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