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Musings on Servant Leadership

During the past years, I’ve researched, thought, written, and taught others about Servant Leadership. Most importantly, I’ve worked myself to emulate the attitude, perspective, and behaviors of a Servant Leader. I’ve gained many, many life-changing insights, made valuable observations, and reached helpful conclusions during this process.

And, so, I thought I would share with you what I’m calling, “Musings on Servant Leadership.” The statements below are somewhat wide ranging. They also represent some of the ideas, concepts, perceptions, and opinions that come from me and from others who have invested their lives in the living out of servant leadership.

With that introduction, here goes:

• The content of Servant Leader begins with the character of the individual.

• Servant Leadership is more than a model, it is a mindset that encompasses ALL of life.

• The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor (Max Dupree).

• Servant leaders do not abandon the concept of accountability. Just the opposite. They create environments, cultures if you will, that cause themselves and those who they serve responsible for the success of their organizations.

• The characteristics of the Emotionally Intelligent—Knowing oneself; Managing or regulating those emotions, traits, strengths, and behavioral tendencies; Knowing the social and emotional needs of others; Responding to those socio/emotional needs to establish positive relationships; and possessing and expressing the quality of empathy—all of these can help create the capacity to become a servant leader.

• [Servant] Leadership is not so much about what you do but who you are (Frances Hesselbein).

• The desire to become an authentic servant leader must be driven by the question, “What is my motive for leading?” If the answer is not grounded in an understanding of and desire to be altruistic, then your leadership will lead to cynicism.

• Being a servant leader takes courage. And, you may find that someday you will have to pay a price for standing firm on those “right” principles of servant leadership.

• Servant Leadership is something that you do WITH people, not TO people (Ken Blanchard).

• Servant Leaders are stewards. That means they treat their organization as “on loan” to them and work to make it better when they leave.

And finally, 

• Servant Leadership: It’s not about me; it’s about them.

Much more could be said among these “musings.” No doubt, many who read my list have musings of their own. If so, LIVE them, and then see happen what Robert Greenleaf said is the greatest evidence of servant leadership in action,

“The best test, [of servant leadership] and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

If you would like to learn more about servant leadership–how you can become a servant leader and create a culture of servant leadership in your organization–please contact me at or call me at 724-462-9962.

Best regards,

Jim Dittmar

Dr. James Dittmar is the Founder, President, and CEO of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute which began in 2014. Prior to this Jim founded the award-winning Geneva College M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program in 1995 and served as Chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and Director of the M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program until 2015. Should you have any questions, comments or feedback, please contact him at



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