Servant Leadership and Job Satisfaction: Is There a Link?

Servant Leadership and Job Satisfaction: Is There a Link?
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Introducing the Servant Leader

“The Servant leader is servant first” 1 Robert K. Greenleaf said in 1970 in his seminal essay, The Servant as Leader. In those six words lies the key to servant leadership.

If you’re a servant leader, you want to serve; you need to serve–the desire to serve forms the core of your personality, not the desire to lead. You become a leader because you realize and acknowledge that you can serve best by leading the service.

Servant leaders may serve an organization, its goals and its people. They may serve a cause, or a community, or a nation. Their need to serve, may span society and humanity as a whole. Whatever the service that a servant leader is compelled to give, it consumes him, drives him, and thus makes him lead as a steward who holds the controlling position in trust for all stakeholders.

The link between servant leadership and job satisfaction is thus firmly established by the very definition of a servant leader.

The Feeling of Job Satisfaction

800px-Gandhi during the Salt March

Job satisfaction is a problematic term because it is individual, personal, subjective and thus cannot really be objectively measured. We can define job satisfaction as a “feeling” of contentment or pleasure in the work we do, and at the conditions under which we practice our professions.

Other factors that may be related to job satisfaction are how stressed we feel while performing our daily tasks , the sense of control (or lack thereof) we command with regards to our profiles at work, our office relationships with our superiors and subordinates, the emotional fulfillment and sense of achievement we get from the jobs we are asked to do, and how well our home and work lives correlate and fit with each other.

Servant Leadership and Job Satisfaction

600px-Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept

Servant leadership and job satisfaction seem innately compatible concepts.

The servant leader’s need to serve gives him certain natural attributes that assure the development and happiness of the people who work under his guidance. A true servant leader is an active and empathetic listener, who believes in close-knit interpersonal relationships. These characteristics make him sensitive to even the unarticulated wants and needs of those who he leads. As a result, the entire team grows more service oriented, happier, healthier and more autonomous.

The servant leader’s service oriented sensibilities make him acutely aware of his environment and grant him powers of anticipating when and where his intervention may be required. This natural capability of conceptualization and foresight helps not only the servant leader but also the people and the organization served by him.

One of the servant leader’s fundamental qualities is the absolute belief that every being is important in its very essence. Therefore, a co-worker is to be appreciated not only for the work she performs but also just for being herself. The servant leader is thus a natural human resource developer. He concentrates on the all-around improvement of the person; not just the personnel.

Institutions headed by servant leaders are much more likely to be thoughtful and understanding of the individual wants and capabilities of every employee. Such institutions would subscribe to Greenleaf’s philosophy that a good society is built on the foundation of organizations where “caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other”2 is the way of life.

The work atmosphere of an institution headed by a servant leader would therefore, be more considerate than competitive; more just and equitable; less power oriented; more able to recognize individual talents and appreciate them; more capable of adjusting to daily upheavals and crisis situations; more focused on people becoming creative and autonomous, because their need to become better servants would drive them.

Concluding Statement

The servant leader, by his very nature, has very advanced soft skills. These, combined with his dedication to service, make him head his institution in a manner that heightens the job satisfaction of the institution’s employees. The link between servant leadership and job satisfaction is indisputable.

End Notes


2. Robert K. Greenleaf expounds this philosophy in his second major essay,The Institution as Servant

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Further Reading

www. Arkin, A. Serve the servants. PeopleManagement, 23 December, 2004

Autry, J. A. The servant-leader : How to build a creative team, develop great morale, and improve bottom-line performance (1st paperback ed.). New York:Three Rivers Press, 2004

Block, P. Stewardship : Choosing service over self-interest (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1993

Sullivan, J. J. Servant first! : Leadership for the new millennium. Xulon Press, 1993