Leadership styles are often influenced by individual personalities, but grow and transform as leaders accrue knowledge and experience. How does a leader determine which leadership style to aspire to? The traditional employment pyramid model illustrates descending hierarchy with the CEO on the top level, presidents on the second level, vice presidents on the third level, middle management on the fourth level, team leaders and supervisors on the fifth level, and entry-level employees (usually with very little opportunity for upward progression) on the very bottom level. For many years, this model has been a structural standard in many organizations and businesses.

What if the traditional employment pyramid model was inverted? Would an opposite approach be functional? The inverted employment pyramid model is at the heart and soul of Servant Leadership and promises many benefits for companies seeking to leverage the progression of success in their business endeavors by creating a company culture of human compassion, understanding and community.


What is Servant Leadership? 

Servant leadership focuses on the prosperity of the people within the organization. Servant leaders unlock potential in others by placing their needs at a higher priority than their own. They realize that happy people are happy employees. They lead by example, are careful listeners, are encouraging, remove barriers for others, and equip others with the tools necessary for success.


What are the values and characteristics of Servant Leadership?

Lead By Example:
Servant leaders are persuasive because they lead by example in the standards and expectations that they set for others. Because of this, servant leaders are typically individuals who others are enthusiastic to follow.

Put Your Team First:
Many leaders do not consider that they are only as successful as the team that supports them. When leaders adjust to this way of thinking, they are serving their team and the organization to full potential. This creates greater pathways for success and garners the respect of your team.

Empathize and Be Compassionate:
Servant leaders are patient and empathetic to the challenges that their employees face. They understand that the employee is more complex as a person than the role that they assume in their work and take great measures to fully understand the employee as a person, coaching and guiding wherever possible.

Be Aware:
Awareness is a key component of servant leadership; servant leaders aim to be aware of themselves and look inward to see outward. They are constantly developing themselves in areas of weakness and using their strengths to advance others and establish community within the organization. Servant leaders are also always very aware of the individuals and groups that surround them.

Build Fellowship and Camaraderie:
Fellowship and comradery are at the heart of servant leadership. When employees are engaged in community, morale and performance improves. Servant Leaders find ways to create community within the organization and appeal to the psychological need of belongingness in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Encourage Others and Promote Growth:
Human beings need opportunity and encouragement in order to grow; this is no different in the workplace. Servant leaders encourage employees to recognize their true potential, provide opportunities for employees to challenge and stretch themselves and guide them through any barriers that may block their road to accomplishment. Servant leaders do not subscribe to negative self-talk or “I can’t” statements, but instead remind employees of their capabilities and invite them to take risks that will promote growth for both the individual and the business.

Invest in Human Capital:
One of the most important traits of a Servant Leader is the investment that they make in others. Investment in another person requires trust and the release or sharing of authority. An investment is a risk; when a person understands that another person is taking a risk by making an investment in them, they are much more likely to discover confidence in their potential and succeed.


How successful can a leader be by utilizing Servant Leadership?

Here is a list of the world’s 10 top CEOs who practice and model Servant Leadership:

  1. Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
  2. Ari Weinzweig, founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses
  3. Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller
  4. Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company
  5. Brittany Merrill Underwood, founder and CEO of Akola Jewelry
  6. Kristen Hadeed, founder and CEO of Student Maid™
  7. Harold MacDowell, CEO of TDIndustries
  8. Melissa Reiff, CEO of The Container Store
  9. David K. Williams, chairman and CEO of Fishbowl
  10. Sylvia Metayer, CEO of Sodexo Corporate Services Worldwide


What are the organizational benefits of Servant Leadership?

  • 6 percent higher job performance
  • 8 percent increase in positive customer service ratings
  • 50 percent higher staff retention rate
  • Atmosphere of Trust and Respect
  • Adds value and improves morale in employees


Eleanor Roosevelt once famously stated, “For our own success to be real, it must contribute to the success of others.”


 Do you look up from the bottom of the pyramid or down from the top? How does your perspective from the pyramid shape your organization? Does your team feel valued, included, invested in, understood and empowered? How can you be a Servant Leader in your organization?



Patel, A. (2010, April 22). Lean Culture Introduction. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/ankit114/lean-culture-introduction

Schwantes, M. (2017, March 29). The World’s 10 Top CEOs (They Lead in a Totally Unique Way). Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/heres-a-top-10-list-of-the-worlds-best-ceos-but-they-lead-in-a-totally-unique-wa.html

Smale, T. (2018, January 24). ‘Servant Leadership’ and How Its 6 Main Principles Can Boost the Success of Your Startup. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/307923

Traditional Employment. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://creatinghealthfromscratch.com/why-you-avoid-joining-doterra/traditional-employment/