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. 

In Jesus’ day as well as ours, leaders because of their authority can determine the direction of the organization and assign tasks. 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 they related to impact or finance. Leaders are paid to get things done.

How a leader accomplish 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 that position 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 an author, speaker and Professional Certified Coach. He helps on-the-go leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    • Good stuff Keith. I can’t think of a better way to lead other than by serving and coaching. I encourage leaders to adopt this approach if they haven’t already.

      • Thanks Leo! Many want to serve but know know what that looks like in a leadership role. A coaching approach to people will help produce service while leading.