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Servant leadership

Servant Leadership: Join Our #MTtalk

August 15, 2017

Please join us!

What: #MTtalk

Where: Twitter

When: Friday, August 18, @ 1pm EST (5pm GMT / 10:30pm IST)

Topic: Leaders Serve First

Host: @Mind_Tools

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve —Albert Schweitzer, German physician and humanitarian, 1875-1965

About this week’s chat 

Whenever I hear the phrase “servant leadership,” I think of Nelson Mandela, or Madiba, as he’s affectionately called in South Africa. He was one of the greatest statesmen in history, yet, by all accounts, he was a servant leader and a man who embraced simplicity.

Humility is one of the hallmarks of a servant leader: they don’t like bragging. Zelda la Grange, Madiba’s personal assistant of 19 years, wrote in her 2014 book that Mandela didn’t enjoy functions where people made long speeches. And he especially disliked it if the speeches sang his praises!

She also said that he regularly introduced his entire delegation to the dignitaries who he was visiting: “Later he also insisted on inviting the presidential plane’s crew to banquets, even if this meant he had to request the head of state/government himself to allow them to attend. He never treated any of his staff as just the hired help.”

There are anecdotes of Madiba throwing plans off course to greet children and to walk through crowds. He went out of his way to meet serving staff at banquets and to shake hands with chauffeurs. Paying close attention to people and making them feel important were at the core of his values. So, being mindful of people is clearly an important characteristic of servant leaders.

Nelson Mandela was also known for his ability to spot a need. When seeing someone who needed help, he insisted on him or his staff assisting them or, at the very least, finding aid for them.

Authenticity is another servant leader quality that was apparent in Mandela. He was accepting of many kinds of people. But, at the same time, he was able to let it be known if someone’s behavior, such as arriving late, had displeased him – even if it were a head of state!

You can’t be a servant leader without integrity. Madiba, for instance, was almost obsessive about honesty. He once threatened to get rid of his whole security contingent when one of his bodyguards took expensive toiletries from Mandela’s hotel suite. He let go of the issue only when the culprit returned the items.

Servant leaders are described as people who have a sense of stewardship over the people and companies or organizations they are responsible for. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “stewardship” as, “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

I think it’s one of the most accurate ways to describe Nelson Mandela: a man who carefully and responsibly managed the people and the country entrusted to his care.

Leaders Serve First

This week’s #MTtalk Twitter chat topic is, “Leaders Serve First.” So, in our recent Twitter poll, we asked why leaders who serve are important in creating happy workplaces. More than 60 percent of you said it’s because they set the right example. (To see all the poll questions and answers, click here.)

We’d love you to participate in our Twitter chat, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:

  • What does servant leadership mean to you?
  • How do servant leaders affect those around them?
  • What are some of the characteristics of servant leaders?
  • In what ways can you develop a servant leadership approach?
  • What do servant leaders do that is different from other leaders?
  • What would it be like to work for a servant leader?
  • How is it possible for a leader to also serve?


We’ve also compiled a list of Mind Tools resources on the topic for you to browse.     

At Mind Tools we like hearing from people all over the globe. We’d like to learn from you too! So we invite you to participate in the #MTtalk chat this Friday, August 18, at 1pm EST (5pm GMT; 10:30pm IST). Remember, we feature great participant responses right here on our blog every week!

How to Join the Servant Leadership Chat

Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat. To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hash tag #MTtalk in your responses.


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