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Servant leadership produces better business results, but how do you build a servant culture?


Servant Leadership Fosters Stronger Business Results

In a landmark study, Dr. James Sipe showed that servant-led companies outperform both the S&P 500 as well as each of the stand-out organizations featured in Jim Collins’ classic book Good to Great. Yet, servant leadership is an A-typical leadership style shrouded in misconception.

Therefore, many executives face an uphill battle when they try to adopt it. Given this, how do you equip yourself to use the servant leadership method, build a servant-led culture, and access its benefits?

  • Servant-led Companies 24.2%
  • “Good to Great” Companies 17.5%
  • S&P 500 10.2%

The Core Principles of Servant Leadership


Today’s experts differ in how they guide themselves and others to become effective servant leaders. However, they do seem to agree that servant leadership is based on a few core principles.

Servant leadership:

  • Depends upon putting others’ long-term best interests before your own;
  • Turns hierarchical organizational structures upside down;
  • Leverages personal values, meaning there is an ethical component;
  • Does not come intuitively for most people, meaning it requires deeper intentionality;
  • Can be practiced by anyone, at any level of responsibility.

Experts also agree that while anyone can practice servant leadership, relatively few leaders do. It takes high emotional intelligence, high character, and a profound commitment to inner growth in order to build influence through serving others. Moreover, harmful yet widespread misunderstandings about this leadership style keep more executives from adopting it.

4 Common Misunderstandings About Servant Leadership

The 4 most common yet harmful misconceptions about servant leadership are:

1. Servant leaders have lower standards of performance.

Because of its focus on lifting people up and encouraging them, many people think that servant leadership does not hold people accountable. The opposite is true. In fact, servant leaders hold themselves and their employees to an even higher standard of performance. Traditional workplaces hold team members accountable only for their functional performance. In servant-led companies, employees are held accountable not only for their functional performance, but also for the quality of their contribution to the servant culture. People must account not only for their results, but also for how those results were achieved through service to their team members.

2. Most employees will take advantage of servant leaders.

Servant leaders are not doormats or pushovers. They are thoughtful and savvy stewards of their companies’ resources. When servant leaders provide support to their employees, they do so through a process of discernment. They ask: What do others need from me in order to stretch, grow, and reach their potential? How can I best use my time, energy, and expertise to facilitate others’ development and actualization? When leaders learn and apply servant principles, they lay a foundation of transparency and accountability. Therefore, in servant cultures there is no room for “dialed-in” performance. Employees who try to take advantage of servant leaders quickly find themselves shared with the competition. However, that rarely happens. Cultures of servant leadership are vibrant, engaging environments that inspire people to want to grow and contribute at the highest levels.

3. Servant leadership is not sustainable long-term.

Academic literature calls servant leadership a “transformational leadership style.” This means that when people are exposed to it, they can’t not change in fundamental ways. Their attitudes and perspectives change, as does their understanding of what it means to contribute to a team. Through exposure to servant principals, people begin to perceive their roles and relationships differently. Instead of thinking first and foremost about their own needs, goals, and desires, they begin to consider how they can serve others. They ask: What can I do to promote the well being of my team members? How can I support others to take their work to the next level?  Because of the goodwill generated through service, cultures built on servant principals are self-reinforcing, which means that they actually become more effective over the long-term.

4. Servant leadership only works in non-profits or small, close-knit cultures.

Servant cultures can be built and leveraged anywhere, from 5-person teams to Fortune 500 corporations. Here is a brief, incomplete list of global companies whose CEOs credit their success to having cultures of servant leadership:

  • Aflac
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Balfour Beatty Construction
  • Chick Fil-A
  • Container Store
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Interstate Batteries
  • JetBlue
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
  • Marriott International
  • Men’s Warehouse
  • Nordstrom
  • SAS
  • Service Master
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Starbucks
  • TD Industries
  • Tyson Foods
  • Whole Foods Market

Moreover, top media outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Bloomberg News, and the Wall Street Journal regularly seek out and cover servant-led companies for their business-minded readers.

Your Next Steps to Build a Culture of Servant Leadership


It’s not easy to build a culture of servant leadership. But, you can achieve this goal — with support from leaders who’ve been already been successful at transforming their cultures through service.

Triune Leadership Services offers a proven system that you can use to implement servant leadership in your organization and begin experiencing profound results. While our system is built on the life of history’s most impactful servant leader, Jesus Christ, you don’t have to be a Christian to use it and benefit from it.

But you do have to possess a natural curiosity for how Jesus — through unparalleled servant leadership — leveraged a small band of 12 followers to build a global movement that today has more than 2.4 billion followers worldwide.


Benefits of adopting faith-based servant leadership:

  • Gain a perfect example of servant leadership in action through the life of Jesus Christ;
  • Understand how to practice servant leadership even in emotionally challenging circumstances;
  • Learn the concrete, step-by-step process for multiplying servant leaders across your organization quickly and effectively;
  • Leverage Jesus’ counterintuitive wisdom around servant leadership and save yourself, your team, and your company from common mistakes and pitfalls as you build your servant-led culture;
  • Realize the spiritual, cultural, and financial rewards of servant leadership more readily;
  • Build a more sustainable culture of service rooted in profound spiritual chemistry among your leaders and employees.

Real Results from Clients of Triune Leadership Services:

“Warning! If you participate in Triune Leadership Services’ Faith-Based Servant Leadership Training, and read Leading Jesus’ Way, be ready to radically change your life and your approach to leadership. The results speak for themselves, but the true value is the positive impact you will have on people’s lives within your sphere of influence.”

~ Tom Schabel, Owner & CEO, Alexandria Industries

Alexandria Industries

“The Faith-based Servant Leadership principles that Mark so clearly outlines in his training and in his book Leading Jesus’ Way have helped me understand my personal purpose, and how to drive a culture of servant leadership at Knute Nelson. By leading Jesus’ Way, our leaders have strengthened our culture beyond measure to grow our capacities to serve and live out our mission.”

~ Mark Anderson, President & CEO, Knute Nelson

Knute Nelson

“Bible principles work! Aagard has leveraged the servant leadership training that Mark outlines in his book Leading Jesus’ Way to build a company that has more fun, wins more often, and better serves its customers.”
~ Brenton Smith, Owner & CEO, Aagard Group

Aagard Group

“The servant leadership principles in Leading Jesus’ Way are life changing.  Gaining God’s perspective for the purpose of my life as a servant leader has provided the prospective, energy and focus to make a true difference in my personal and professional life. You will be blessed by leading Jesus’ way!”

~ Peter J. Nelson, President, Glenwood State Bank

Glenwood State Bank

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