What does servant leadership mean (to me)?

I was recently texting with a friend of mine who does not work in technology, nor in any related field…in fact, he doesn’t even work in an office! He’s very firmly blue-in-the-collar, and has been for years. He has so much passion for, and investment in, the success of the site where he works, that he’s probably the front-runner for inheriting the business when his boss finally retires, sometime in the middle horizon (i.e. in the next 10-15 years).

Seeing as I only think about my career in the fuzziest way after, oh, about 5 years into the future, I find his clarity about the future both appealing and somewhat mystifying. I don’t know how we got onto the subject, but this very well-read individual hadn’t heard the term, “servant leadership” and, since I had explained that it was how I approached work-life, and managing my team, and acting like a leader, he requested I tell him more. So I wrote a quick couple of lines completely spontaneously, and then I kind of fell in love with my words. So I thought I’d share them with you. Here’s how I define servant leadership, when I’m not thinking too hard about it:

you’re there not to get rich or sell the most widgets, but instead you’re there to make sure your team better – to help them learn & grow, to make sure business goals get crafted in such a manner that you match your team’s career goals…you show your team your respect and care for them with every assignment and every question. and you always want to know more, and to do better by them. you know you can do more with a team who’s bought in on the same vision that you’re presenting

— Celeste Thayer, on servant leadership, 3/12/2021


  1. This is great. I wish more leaders thought this way. I have been wanting to try a manager/leader role recently but I am a pushover sometimes and too caring for other people. Leaders have to make hard decisions. But biggest measure for me for a manager is how I connect with them on personal level and how early on they bring career goals in our conversation. I have had managers who spend entire 1:1 just talking about projects which is not always good. I feel covid has made things difficult for us. We dont talk enough to co-workers and managers and start assuming things in our minds. This has led to some frustration recently.

    1. Is there really such a thing as too caring? I care about my team’s success, therefore if one person isn’t pulling weight, I make sure they understand the repercussions of their inaction so that the entire team is a success… Maybe I misunderstood your comment, feel free to clarify if so.

      I hate the status 1:1! It’s nice to transition from state to brainstorming and coaching, but I dislike keeping things at the shallow state level only.

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