Who Can Be a Servant-Leader at Work?


The CEO can be a servant-leader. And a summer intern can be a servant-leader.

A supervisor of hundreds can be a servant-leader. And someone without direct reports can be a servant-leader.

An executive with decades of experience can be a servant-leader. And a person starting that first job can be a servant-leader.

Servant-leadership has nothing to do with one’s place in the organizational hierarchy. Servant leaders can lead from the top. From the middle. Or from the grass roots.

Indeed, organizations that practice servant leadership tend to be less fixated on organizational charts, titles and reporting relationships.

As for the org chart itself, in my experience servant-led companies tend to have structures that are “flatter” than other companies.* Servant-leaders seem less inclined to like formal hierarchy than other leaders.

But regardless of how the org chart is drawn, servant-led companies usually adopt an “inverted pyramid” attitude.

That’s a way of seeing the highest-ranking executive on the bottom of the org chart and those who serve customers at the top. In an organization with an inverted pyramid attitude, the “higher up” you rise in the ranks, the more people you serve.

That’s how I see it. Anyone can be a servant-leader at work. It’s one of the cool things about servant leadership in the workplace.

What do you think? As you see it, who can be a servant-leader at work?

Let us know.

As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!


*Of course, each corporate context is different. Flat structures work better for some companies and in some industries. Sometimes more hierarchy works better.

In an interesting experiment, online apparel retailer Zappos effectively eliminated its org chart. We wrote a post about that in 2015, “Holacracy and Hierarchy at Zappos.”

Did the Zappos experiment work? Stay tuned for an update of that post coming soon.