This is the third installment of our series on servant leadership.

Today we’ll examine how servant leadership is tied to each of the Keller Seven Influence Traits®. Strengthening each of these traits is crucial to creating a healthy culture of servant leaders.

Let’s take a look at each trait’s role in relationship to servant leadership:

1. Confidence and Servant Leadership

Confidence is the mental attitude of trusting that you have acquired the wisdom needed to face unfamiliar or challenging situations. It’s having the ‘whatever it takes’ attitude.

Confidence means being fully accepting of self, and even though a degree of self-doubt or an awareness of limitations may be present, you press forward.

The word literally means with-faith-inside (con-fide-ence).

At first glance confidence seems like an anti-trait for a servant leader. This is because our current culture has confused confidence with egocentrism. We equate confidence to swagger, cockiness, and an I’m-the-best-that-ever-was attitude. Kanye West epitomizes this kind of bravado; one repels others from following rather than attracting. This is not true confidence. Bravado, in fact, points to a lack of real internal confidence that tries to generate external confidence as one attempts to overcome the fear of being irrelevant, insignificant or meaningless.

True confidence is comfortable enough with the self that it diminishes the fear of others succeeding. This, then, is a vital trait for servant leaders who desire first and foremost to see others succeed. Without confidence, the would-be servant leader will become fearful and territorial. With confidence, the leader doesn’t feel threatened and can then become a servant of every member on his or her team.

2. Courage and Servant Leadership

Courage is related to confidence but a shade different. Courage is related to action—taking action when the odds seem difficult. There are monumental moments of courage in each of our lives, such as running to help someone trapped in a car that is flaming. There are also everyday moments of courage that equally define us--difficult business or life decisions and actions to take despite the circumstances at hand.

Courage is a fundamental requirement of servant leadership, because servant leadership says I’ll go over the hill of the unknown first. I’ll take the first risk before asking my team to. Once followers see the leader exhibit courage, they’ll know they are not being asked to do anything the leader wouldn’t do. This will inspire their courage.

3. Trustworthiness and Servant Leadership

Being trustworthy is one of the highest virtues. Having this trait means another person can place their trust in you and feel secure. Trustworthy people are honest, keep their promises, and value loyalty to others.

You prove your trustworthiness by accepting responsibility and meeting expectations. Your responsibility can be material, as in keeping a promise to complete a task, or non-material as in keeping information confidential. People find you trustworthy when you demonstrate your integrity over time.

Trustworthiness is crucial to servant leadership. As your focus shifts from impersonal objectives to the very personal objective of building people, your trustworthiness is the foundation on which all people building occurs. If you speak with someone about an area in which they need improvement or a personal situation they are facing and they find out that conversation got leaked to others, any of the future communication necessary for building them up will become much more guarded.

If you fail to carry out the actions you say you will, others will begin to question your integrity. When this happens, their primary objective becomes look-out-for-number-one. This undermines all that the servant leader is attempting to build with the culture of the organization.

4. Commitment and Servant Leadership

Commitment is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity or purpose.

Commitment requires us to know the distinguish between:

  • the primary objective of importance and the inferior competing objectives.
  • the best course of action from the easiest course.
  • the vital from mere niceties.
  • the key improvement measurements from the measurements that place us in the best light.
  • the difficult-but-necessary from the fun-but-trivial.

Commitment requires more than knowing these differences. To be committed requires deferring temporal gratification (second in each of the bulleted lists above) for the greater good (first in each bullet).  In fact, a second definition of commitment is:

                an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.

We understand in our personal lives that committing to someone in marriage means saying no to all other romantic interests. The same is true in organizational life. Saying yes to something typically means saying no to something else.

Commitment to servant leadership means saying no to our selfish desires.  Instead, those committed to servant leadership say:

  • Helping you overcome your obstacles is more important than my comfort.  
  • Your success is more important to the organization than me arriving at the top of the ladder as a lonely hero.
  • I put my own gain behind yours because I know your gain will be my ultimate blessing.

Commitment sacrifices the payoff-in-the-now for the long-term best. Servant leadership always looks to the best interest of others before our own. This doesn’t mean we become unhealthily servile. It means we have the purpose of building others as our prime agenda.

5. Passion and Servant Leadership

Webster defines passion as any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

When we study the etymology of the word, we realize this goes deeper than mere emotion. The original Greek meaning ties the word to agony and suffering for that which is desired. An example usage of the word in this context of suffering is seen in early commentary on the death of Christ. The early church called his experience the passion of the Christ. In addition, Greek athletes were said to have passion when they relentlessly punished their bodies in training for the victors wreathe.

A servant leader’s primary passion must be people. People first becomes the mantra that drives the energy expended in leadership efforts. A servant leader understands that profits, increased revenue, or achieving the solution to a cause or community problem comes through teamwork. Success flows on the rails of relationships. If you build people who build people, soon you’ll have an army seeking to achieve the objective. Have a passion for the individuals on your team and good things will happen.

6. Likeability and The Servant Leader

Likeability is a measure of how positively you are viewed by another person. It is also one of the most ignored factors of being a servant leader.

Your likeability depends on your ability to create positive attitudes in other people through the delivery of emotional and physical benefits.

Being liked requires showing compassion, understanding and consideration to others. When others sense you are able to understand them, putting themselves in your shoes, they will look to you as a soundboard for guidance and coaching. This provides you to be the primary voice into their growth and development, and this is the foremost activity of the servant leader.

7. Empowering and the Servant Leader

Empowering is the act of giving someone the authority or power to do something. The recipient of an empowerment becomes stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

Empowerment happens when we make a practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with others so they can take initiative and make decision to solve problems and improve their lives.

It should be obvious; the strength of the empowering trait is THE most influential upon servant leadership. Having strength in this score requires one to have a compelling desire to always serve others. In fact, the empowering score one has on their KII® is one of the best markers of how richly one has developed themselves into becoming a servant leader.

A high score indicates a willingness to share success and own problems or failures. In addition, consistent employment of empowering actions is key to creating a healthy servant leader. One who empowers and controls arbitrarily with only increase confusion and decrease the team member’s confidence.

Healthy delegating is the key action of empowerment.

Gratitude, appreciation and giving credit to others are key expressions of empowerment.

As you can see, each of the Seven Traits plays a role in servant leadership. Even those, which at first glance, may seem contrary to servanthood are integral to its development.

Take a free sample Keller Influence Indicator® assessment to see where you most need to improve. Included in your report will be tips to develop your leadership trait. Then take the full KII® and gain insight into your score on all seven traits to become a better servant leader.

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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina