Servant leadership was first written about within the writings of Robert K. Geenleaf (Northouse, 2013, p. 219). According to Avolio, Walumbwa, and Weber (2009), the characteristics of a servant leader including: the ability to listen to the needs of others, having empathy, awareness, persuasion, stewardship, and building community (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009). Like authentic leadership, servant leadership includes either implicit or explicit identification of the role of leader self-awareness (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). A servant leader is considered a leader who behaves ethically and will motivate followers without having ulterior motives to first satisfy their personal desires. This type of leader prioritizes the needs of their followers and is more concerned about the success and wellbeing of others. Servant leaders are humble leaders who desire to stimulate strong relationships with their followers by encouragement. This servant approach creates a positive work environment and value for the organization (Sendjaya, & Sarros, 2002; Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014; Northouse, 2013, p. 248). Leaders who provide emotional support to followers that desire to reach their full potential, can be seen as role models. Servant leaders are linked to followers’ outcomes including organizational attitudes, and performance. Servant leaders are respected and admired for their integrity, trust, and concern for others. Core requirements of a servant leader are empathy and behaving ethically (Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014).
The desire of a servant leader is not only to take on the role of a servant, but to also take on the nature of a servant. A servant leader will seek to grow and transform their followers (Sendjaya, & Sarros, 2002). As a servant leader provides guidance and direction for their followers, they create what is known as a serving culture. A serving culture can be defined as a group that focuses on behaviors that produce benefits for others. A store manager that engages in being a servant leader is an example of a serving culture. As a servant leader, the manager promotes a culture that inspires to help members and learn the behavioral expectations. The store manager will be an example for the employees, and the employees will learn how to serve others as they follow and admire the manager’s leadership. An employee, follower, or member of the serving culture, must feel cared for, respected, trusted, and supported by the leader. If the leadership is effective, it will enhance the follower’s identification. As employees identify with their store managers leadership, they will identify with the store. If the identification with the store is high, the employees will value the organization and feel a sense of unity with their coworkers. This bond will inspire strong work ethics and better performance (Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014).