Communication & Servant Leadership

Communication & Servant Leadership

Team Perspectives

Ineffective communication presents a host of negative issues for companies. Poor communication increases conflict and confusion for the workforce (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016). In team settings, communication issues are often the blame for most failures to meet expectations and goals (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016). Poor communication is often the result of using incompatible leadership styles that do not promote the proper form of communication within a workplace or team setting. Most teams require collaborative effort and this requirement can be facilitated through a servant leadership approach.

Well-designed teams display high levels of communication and they surpass the efforts of individuals. Research shows that effective teams are typically more productive and effective when they are diverse in makeup (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016). Another characteristic of effective teams is their clear purpose or mission. A clear purpose sets a goal that each team member strives to achieve (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016). Simply telling a group or workers to find a solution to increasing sales is a terrible objective. Another characteristic of successful teams is the utilization of individual member talents. When teams draw on the skills of each member they have more problem solving and creative thinking (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016).

The servant style of leadership is a participative leadership style that provides autonomy for members to leverage individual abilities (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007). This leadership style is based on providing team members with a leader who provides support for team members, “above self-interest, involving many different members in the decision making processes, as well as sharing credit with all members of the team” (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007). This approach is especially useful in situations where high levels of collaboration are needed (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007).

Servant leadership also gains strength from its use of mission, vision, and values, which are primary standards for the mission design (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007). According to Blanchard (2006), success is driven by a vision and mission that encompass values which guide success. The servant leadership model Blanchard refers to is designed with values denoted in the anagram ICARE:

I- Ideal service: Consistently meeting or exceeding the customers’ needs on a day-to-day basis by acting on the belief that service is important (Blanchard, 2006).

C- Culture of service: Creating an environment that focuses on serving customers — both internal and external — at the highest level (Blanchard, 2006).

A- Attentiveness: Listening in a way that allows you to know your customers and their preferences (Blanchard, 2006).

R- Responsiveness: Demonstrating a genuine willingness to serve others by paying attention to and acting on their needs (Blanchard, 2006).

E- Empowerment: Sharing information and tools to help people meet customer needs or exceed customer expectations (Blanchard, 2006).

When these values are applied to the servant leadership model, all activities are focused through a common vision (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007). The vision, like the mission, provides a common direction, but the vision is the loftier and more value driven idea that defines the team’s activity rather than relying on the goal accomplishment alone (Blanchard, 2006). Servant leadership provides a means of actualizing the vision through openness, feedback, and autonomy (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007).

Servant leadership best practices for team development include defining the team’s purpose, organization, establishing the proper leadership (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016). One of the most important areas of teamwork is the establishment of team leadership early in the team’s formation. Despite having a highly autonomous team with open communication, leadership is still needed to keep the team from straying from the mission and vision (Bosch & Mansell, 2015). One of the best examples of this type of leadership can be seen in competitive sports where team captains are assigned and they act as a liaison between players and coaches (Bosch & Mansell, 2015).

While servant leadership can be highly effective, it does present disadvantages. Servant leadership is often prone to disorganization (Bosch & Mansell, 2015). This problem occurs because servant leadership attempts to allow all team members a voice and this cancreate multiple ideas that need to be explored which can become confusing to the team (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016). This problem is exasperated sometimes by the use of technology such as email or memos which allow for enhanced communication but still present the problem of misinterpretation (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016).

There is also the problem with servant leadership not working in all team settings. When teams do not need high levels of collaboration, servant leadership can be a detriment to success. For example, in highly task oriented situations where the means of accomplishing the task is less profound, the need for accomplishing the task quickly rather than creatively is more important (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2007). In this instance, autocratic forms of leadership are more effective as they will work faster and more efficiently. Typically, this need for autocratic leadership is driven by situations where there is little use for feedback and teams are tasked oriented (Engleberg & Wynn, 2016).


Blanchard, K. (2006). Leading at a higher level: Blanchard on leadership and creating high performing organizations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: FT Press.

Bosch, B., & Mansell, H. (2015, July). Interprofessional collaboration in health care Lessons to be learned from competitive sports. Retrieved from NCBI:

Engleberg, I., & Wynn, D. (2016). Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. Prentice Hall, NJ: Pearson.

Noe, R. A., Hollenbeck, J. R., Gerhart, B., & Wright, P. M. (2007). Fundamentals of human resource management (2 ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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Triola Vincent. Thu, Feb 11, 2021. Communication & Servant Leadership Retrieved from

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