A distinguishing feature of servant leadership is that whereas most modern leadership theories focus upon what the leader does, servant leaders are defined by their character as well as by manifestly ‘demonstrating their complete commitment to serve others.’

Empirical testing of the servant leadership concept is promising in so far as it has been shown to produce heightened levels of team effectiveness and individual follower well-being. Spears identified 10 characteristics of servant leaders from Greenleaf’s writings:

  1. Listening - Automatically responding to any problem by receptively listening to what is said, which allows them to identify the will of the group and help clarify that will.
  2. Empathy - Striving to accept and understand others, never rejecting them, but sometimes refusing to recognise their performance as good enough.
  3. Healing - Recognising that, as human beings, they have the opportunity to make themselves and others ‘whole’.
  4. Awareness - Strengthened by general awareness and above all self-awareness, which enables them to view systems holistically.
  5. Persuasion - Relying primarily on convincement rather than coercion.
  6. Conceptualisation - Seeking to arouse and nurture the ability to envision greater possibilities for themselves and others.
  7. Foresight - Intuitively understanding the lessons from the past, the present realities, and the likely outcome of a decision for the future.
  8. Stewardship - Committing first and foremost to serving the needs of others.
  9. Commitment to the growth of people - Nurtures the personal, professional and spiritual growth of each individual.
  10. Building community - Identifies means of building communities among individuals working within their institutions.

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