Coaching and Servant Leadership

Jesus described leadership as serving people rather than lording over them. Yet, two thousand years later – even after all the “How to Be An Empowering Leader” workshops – we still struggle with autocratic leadership. As leaders adopt a coaching approach they become less autocratic and more empowering. 

Leaders, in Jesus’ day as well as ours, can determine the direction of the organization and assign tasks because of their authority. Those leaders who assign tasks arbitrarily or for their own personal gain “lord over” their followers rather than serve them.

Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant leadership” in 1970. Service to others, rather than control, distinguishes servant leaders.

An organization must achieve its objectives, be those objectives related to impact or finance. Leaders are paid to get things done.

How a leader accomplishes organizational objectives is the key to servant leadership. This is where a coaching style of leading intersects with servant leadership.

Coaching and Servant Leadership

  1. Lead with influence rather than position. Dr. J Robert Clinton, a leadership professor, defines leadership as influence. Everyone has influence, the question is, how is that influence used? Those with leadership positions can use their authority to “force” others, rather than finding ways to draw out natural motivations.
    • Where do you find your authority reliant on your position? What could you do to shift to build influence and relationship as your authority base?
  2. Lead with respect rather than control. A coaching style gives up 100% control (or the illusion of it) and instead empowers others by listening, asking questions, and allowing a degree of freedom for decision-making. This demonstrates respect for others, which engenders trust from followers.
    • How could you increase listening, asking questions, and allowing others to make more decisions for themselves?
  3. Lead with growth rather than utility. Servant leaders and coaches develop others. They don’t just use people to achieve tasks. They simultaneously encourage the growth of those they work with while at the same time achieving the organization’s objectives.
    • How do the people you work with want to grow? How could you encourage personal growth goals while simultaneously achieving work objectives?

Leading with influence, respect, and growth are traits of a servant leader. A coaching mindset and the use of coaching skills will enable a leader to act in these ways.

Question: What are your thoughts on coaching and servant leadership? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. You own your comments but give me permission to use them. See My Comments Policy. Read my Permissions Policy to know how you can use my posts.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    5 thoughts on “Coaching and Servant Leadership

    1. In my opinion Coaching and Servant Leadership goes hand-in-hand they both are highly positive styles of leadership that help or allow the individual to contribute what they have learned more effectively. It allows for a thriving team environment instead of an environment built on self-preservation. A coaching Leader helps others identify their unique strengths and weakness as it promotes positive feedback like that of Servant leadership.

    2. Good article Keith. But, here you are considering coaching and servant leadership as a single leadership type. In other resources, they define two types: coach leadership and servant leadership. Do you think we can separate them? If yes, what’s the key difference?

      • Coaching and servant leadership are not the same things. Coaching is a way of communicating that can be one of the styles that servant leaders use. Being a servant leader is more than just a coaching style of communication.