Servant Leadership Works Best When Embracing Vulnerability

Servant leadership is a long-standing concept. Some of the best leaders practiced it, from Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to Herb Kelleher, the Former CEO of Southwest Airlines. For the longest time, the focus was on the growth and success of the company or an organization. However, servant leadership focuses on the people who build the organization. And believe it or not, servant leadership works best when embracing vulnerability.

I’ve seen several TV shows, and one of the recurring episodes involves a team member getting promoted. It’s all joy and celebration until the character realizes they must be in charge of the very people they worked with at the same level. As you can tell, they struggle to balance being respected while caring for the team members.

I thought about this because I believe most leaders struggle with it when practicing servant leadership. You want to be a leader who people will listen to but also the kind of leader who prioritizes the needs and well-being of their employees.

I’ve seen many people become bosses rather than leaders because they could not figure it out. And I get it. You’d rather be feared than not listened to.

But like I said before, servant leadership works best when you are confident enough to be exposed to the very people you lead. You require proof, so read on as I explain this concept further.

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership is a style of leadership where a leader strives to serve others rather than take control or gain power. The leader, in this instance, focuses on their employees or team members. They ensure that they grow and that their needs are met.

And why? Because ultimately, the employees contribute to the business’ growth and well-being. Employees who are neglected or treated unfairly are less likely to contribute their best efforts toward work.

The servant leader empowers employees, promotes innovation, and ensures the well-being of those in managerial positions.

Characteristics of a Servant Leader


A servant leader leads without judgment. They are more interested in hearing the opinions and input of others than their own ideas and opinions. Servant leaders do not have the loudest voice in the room. They strive to understand before asking to be understood.


Servant leaders appreciate their employees for who they are and what they contribute to the organization. They focus on the people and are committed to serving them.

Is Humble

Servant leaders tend to put others first because they are humble. A servant leader understands that leadership is not all about them. They recognize that others can accomplish things as they can.


Servant leaders are willing to take risks for the people they serve. They are also dependable and transparent, thus earning the trust of their colleagues.


Finally, a servant leader shows genuine kindness and concern for others. They are dedicated to serve, and care for the people they serve.

Servant Leadership Work Best When Being Vulnerable

If you were to research how to build a servant leadership mindset, you’d come across many articles highlighting the importance of embracing vulnerability. They will tell you to be open and free, letting your team members see you in vulnerable positions.

And why? Because servant leadership requires you to demonstrate qualities such as stewardship, empathy, and listening. In addition, it demands commitment to the personal growth of your employees or team members.

You can only achieve this by allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your employees or team members. Embracing vulnerability helps to create a sense of trust. It will allow your team members to first see you as a human, not just a boss.

Secondly, it allows them to feel more comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities. This action will help you understand what your team lacks and needs. In addition, you can better tailor ways to help them achieve their goals.

Vulnerability in Leadership is Not A Weakness

Most men agree that vulnerability is a sign of weakness in any situation, especially leadership. Why? Because it goes against the traditional expectations of strength and invulnerability. People who lead are supposed to be confident, assertive, and have control.

So you can see how it contradicts, as being vulnerable even in servant leadership means emotional exposure and admitting limitations or mistakes. And being open about everything even struggles.

Right now, you are probably scared that people will diminish your authority as a leader. You are scared they will see you as incompetent or limited. It’s a rational fear. But the truth is embracing vulnerability in servant leadership can be a powerful tool.

Besides building trust, you will encourage a culture of owning up to mistakes and a willingness to learn when limited in skills. It will also improve your emotional intelligence, position you to confront obstacles with courage, and encourage others to be open for better transparency. So vulnerability is not a weakness- it’s the best way for servant leadership to work.

Practical Ways to Embrace Vulnerability in Servant Leadership

So now that we have established that servant leadership works best when being vulnerable, how do you do it? Like most things you need to learn, it’s a choice to make every day.

If you’ve been putting up your walls, it will look challenging. But making that choice every day gets easier and eventually becomes part of who you are.

So, here are some ways to embrace vulnerability while practicing servant leadership:

Share Personal Stories

A good place to start is by sharing personal stories, in relation to your work. You can be vulnerable by including the challenges you faced or mistakes you made in the stories. By doing this, you break down those walls and create a connection and feeling of empathy among the team members.

Ask for Input and Feedback

One thing that can instantly transform you into a servant leader is asking for opinions and feedback. Bosses rarely do this, and it is one of the things that separates them from leaders. By asking for feedback, ideas, and options, you show your team members that you value what they have to say.

Admit Imperfections and Mistakes

What is the best way to demonstrate humility? It’s not pretending that your accomplishments never happened. That just annoys people.

Instead, it’s by admitting when you make mistakes, fall short of expectations, or are limited in skills.

Admitting that you are not perfect shows your team that you are human. It will encourage them to do the same so you have a better understanding of how to help them.

Express Compassion and Empathy

The most important part of being a servant leader is showing compassion and empathy. The best opportunity to do so is when a team member is experiencing a challenge or setback.

Listen, validate their feelings, offer support, and be encouraging. By doing this, you create an environment where your workers feel understood and valued.

Lead by Example

Finally, like any good leader, always lead by example. Take risks, step out of your comfort zone, and show resilience in the face of challenges.

By doing this, you will inspire others to do the same. If you are doing it right, it will be fulfilling beyond helping the company grow.

Vulnerability: A Path to Success in Servant Leadership

In conclusion, servant leadership truly thrives when leaders embrace vulnerability. This approach goes against the traditional concepts of strength and control, encouraging a culture of trust, authenticity, and collaboration within the company.

By being open about your vulnerabilities, you can create an atmosphere where team members feel valued, supported, and strong enough to reach their full potential.

Leaders who practice servant leadership understand that vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength. It allows a real connection, empathy, and growth, ultimately improving the effectiveness of leadership in the workplace.

In essence, servant leadership works best when leaders dare to be vulnerable, showing humility, empathy, and a willingness to learn from their team members.

So, embrace vulnerability as the core of servant leadership and unlock its full potential for creating positive change in the workplace.

Embrace Vulnerability: Key to Servant Leadership Success

Servant leadership works best when leaders embrace vulnerability. Learn how vulnerability can enhance servant leadership’s impact in the workplace.

Discover the power of vulnerability in leadership with our latest blog post, “Servant Leadership Works Best When Embracing Vulnerability.” Learn how embracing vulnerability fosters stronger relationships and creates a more compassionate work environment.

About Author

Waithira Njagi is a seasoned wellness and relationship content writer with nearly a decade of experience. Her passion for helping others navigate the complexities of personal growth and connection shines through in her engaging and insightful writing.
With a knack for distilling complex topics into easily digestible pieces, Waithira's work is geared toward readers seeking guidance and inspiration on their journey to holistic well-being.
When she's not crafting engaging articles, you can find Waithira curled up with a stack of romance novels– always rooting for love to win– or enjoying quality time with her beloved family. Her dedication to spreading love and positivity is evident in everything she creates.

Waithira is here to remind you that life, much like their stories, is a tapestry of connections - to loved ones, and the endless adventures found in books.

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