Servant Leader Principle #9 – Growth

Servant leaders believe that people have a value beyond being just workers. Servant leaders are deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual.

BSA NYLT Syllabus, module Servant Leadership
Photo of first spring buds; emphasis on growth

Servant leaders are people focused, desiring the best for them as individuals. Never settling for status quo, the servant leader uses listening, empathy, healing, and awareness to understand where the person currently is, conceptualizing a new vision for the served person, and persuading them to own this vision – helping them to make plans and set goals toward those plans (the essence of foresight). It truly represents a capstone of the principles, taking the skills of the servant leader and applying them directly.

The ultimate test, represents the best test from Greenleaf: does the individual grow as a person. As such, it is hardest to measure, since the served person also influences the result, taking all the praises.

Of course, the servant leader must identify motivation in the individual, even if it buried or latent. Without this small ember, which the leader can fan, no amount of principle application can burst flames. Selection of a served individual therefore takes wisdom, as we all contend with limited resources.

Growth in the business context

Servant leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As such, the servant leader is deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual within his or her organization. The servant leader recognizes the tremendous responsibility to do everything in his or her power to nurture the personal and professional growth of employees and colleagues. In practice, this can include (but is not limited to) concrete actions such as making funds available for personal and professional development, taking a personal interest in the ideas and suggestions from everyone, encouraging worker involvement in decision-making, and actively assisting laid-off employees to find other positions

Larry Spears Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders

In this context, we all know areas where it is bad to mix personal with business. A small list of areas that are commonly cited as cautions:

  • Leads to poor business decisions
  • Business decisions are complicated with“emotional baggage” 
  • The motive of personal gain overrides the achievement of business objectives

However, dividing up our lives into separate contexts is difficult, and sometimes impossible. Different spheres of our lives intersect; bringing a whole person into workplace is a long-term strategy. We need personal attributes of individuals to propel business forward:

  • Solid listening skills
  • Good speaking ability
  • Empathetic handling of problems
  • Significant ethical motivation
  • Maturity and temperate handling

We therefore, as business servant leaders, need to focus on the whole person. Aligning with our business objectives, giving opportunity to grow as described above, and developing all spheres of the individual, we can built the platform needed for these individuals to take their place as whole-person workers who feel significant, challenged, and motivated.


In the quiet hours of the mind, even heading off into the twilight of life, influence is gathered from those individuals we have poured our energy into, especially ones that have succeeded beyond our conceptualized vision. “Good work!” is a satisfying statement from not only the ones we have served, but to our Master who called us into this humble way of seeing our world:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

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