People ask me all the time for recommendations on good servant leadership books. I finished a great one this week. Art Barter’s new book, Farmer Able, is a fable about servant leadership transforming organizations and people from the inside out.

Art Barter is an outstanding leader to learn from about servant leadership. His career is an example of how a leader can grow into servant leadership and provide incredible benefits for organizations and people along the way.

Art is currently the founder, CEO and President of Servant Leadership Institute. He created the Servant Leadership Institute to teach others how to inspire and equip the people they influence. In other words, his organization teaches people how to become servant leaders.

My favorite servant leadership lessons from Farmer Able

  • “When you think you are the big cheese, all you do is stir up curdled milk”

    • Thinking you know it all just because of your position or title will not maximize the output of the organization. A know-it-all attitude turns people off, and leads to sub optimizing behaviors and performance from the team.
  • “The attitude and behaviors you lead with, will be followed”

    • People are watching the leader. You are always on stage and your actions and behaviors are telling the story behind the values of the organization.
  • “Self-reflection is illuminating”

    • It is an extremely valuable practice to intentionally take time for self-reflection. Look in the mirror to determine if you like what you are seeing from yourself as a leader. Bonus – Ask others how they feel about your leadership to shine more light on the current situation.
  • “Cleaning out the stalls is not ridiculous”

    • There is no work in an organization that should be beneath anyone just because of his or her position or title. You can illustrate how much you care for your team by willingly helping out wherever there is a need. Have you done the dishes, taken out the trash, cleaned the toilets, or washed the laundry at home lately?
  • “The whip makes your team pull not as a team”

    • Yelling at people and whipping them into submission will lead to distrust and animosity across the team. It will not lead to teamwork and high performance.
  • “Liberated chickens produce more eggs”

    • Put people in control of their destiny and their goals. Allow them to think and figure out better ways to get the work done. This will enhance the worthwhileness of their work and will elevate their energy!
  • “How you grow the harvest is more important than the harvest itself”

    • Metrics are important. They tell you how you are doing. But do not spend all your time just pouring over the numbers. Focus first and foremost on how you are building an environment that respects and develops people to enable them to do their best work. As Ken Blanchard always says “Good results are the applause for doing the right thing on values and people”.
  • “There is wonder and magic in leaving your ego behind and serving others”

    • Nothing is more powerful and impactful in the success of an organization than to be led by a humble leader. People want to follow leaders that get up each day to serve their team.
  • “Help someone else grow and everyone grows”

    • The only way you grow an organization is to grow leaders. Your role as a leader is to help others develop and achieve their God-given potential.
  • “Goodness always seeds more goodness”

    • Servant leadership is contagious. You will find that you can’t out give and out serve others. The more you as a leader give and serve, the more everyone else will want to do the same. Servant leaders multiply servant leaders.


I am thankful for people like Art Barter who have given their lives for the advancement of servant leadership. His work is making our world a better place!


Which of these key learnings from Farmer Able resonate most with you?

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:1-4