Servant leader is a leader who puts others ahead of oneself and their main goal is to serve. Servant leader shares power and puts the team’s needs and goals first. He or she helps team members to develop, grow and perform to the highest level possible. Servant Leaders acknowledge other people’s perspectives and give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals.

According to Larry C. Spears, former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, these are the most important characteristics of servant leaders:

  1. Listening.

Servant leaders not only hear what is being said, he or she must notice what is not being said. Servant leader seeks to identify and clarify the will of the team and/or the individual. 

  1. Empathy.

Servant leaders strive to understand and empathize with others. Servant leader does not dismiss the problem and move on. 

  1. Healing.

Servant leaders have the potential for healing oneself and others. Servant leaders recognize that he or she can help make whole with whom they come in contact.  

  1. Awareness.

Servant leaders strive to be self-aware and socially aware. He or she must be aware of people, situations, feelings, strengths and weaknesses of those around him or her. She or he cannot ignore their own weaknesses or exploit weaknesses of others. 

  1. Persuasion.

Servant leaders do not convince others and build consensus within the group. She or he asks questions to bring ideas and open other team members’ eyes to possibilities that they had not considered.

  1. Conceptualization.

Servant leaders move beyond the thought of what we need to do today and starts to think of where we want to be in a month, a year, or five years. Servant leaders dream great dreams without losing the focus on day to day activities.  

  1. Foresight.

Servant leaders learn from the past, consider the present and foresee the consequences of the upcoming decisions. 

  1. Stewardship.

Servant leaders assume first and foremost a commitment to serve the needs of others. Servant leader uses openness and persuasion rather than control. 

  1. Commitment to the growth of people.

Servant leaders focus on the growth of others. Growth is not just professional in nature. A servant leader considers personal and spiritual growth too. A servant leader helps team members to be the best version of themselves. 

  1. Building community.

A team of people work together to accomplish a goal. A community is a group of people who work together to accomplish a goal while inspiring, motivating and helping each other. 

An effective Scrum Master is a team base servant leader who focuses and leads the team efforts in continuous relentless improvement. A Scrum Master helps the team improve and take responsibility for their action. Scrum Masters helps educate the team in Scrum, Extreme Programming, Kanban and SAFe. 

Scrum Master should have the following servant leaders’ qualities:

  1. Commitment to put yourself last

Being a servant leader means you are committed to put your personal interest last. People who you are serving should be the center of the attention. 

  1. Focus on the greatness of others

A servant leader should help team members improve their performance and lift them up to be greater. A servant leader focuses on creating an environment where people thrive and become the best version of themselves. 

  1. Respects people’s need to be fully human

A servant leader cares about the well-being of the people inside the workplace. A servant leader is personally interested in people as human beings. A servant leader does not differentiate a person inside or outside of the workplace. 

  1. Courage to speak the truth.

A servant leader has the courage to tell the truth even though it will make others uncomfortable or even resistant. She does not sugar coat any of the messages she sends because she wants her people to improve and have a new experience. She walks the talk and every bit of her message has integrity in it.

The truth may not be what people are used to hearing in the past because the truths create no space for politics. Servant leader tells the truth without fear because his or her goal is the greatness of the team. A servant leader is genuine, has no hidden agenda or motives nor personal interest in his or her message.  

  1. Openness about own vulnerability. 

A servant leader has the humility to be open about his or her vulnerability. Servant leaders have the humility to say that he or she does not have all the answers. This is another way of servant leader gain the team’s trust. 

What does an effective Scrum Master do?

  1. Shield the team from diversions and distractions.
  2. Help the team finding ways to solve and remove impediments.
  3. Coach the team in agile Scrum, Lean and SAFe best practices.
  4. Ensure and develop a good relationship between the team and the product owner and others outside the team. 
  5. Encourage transparency. 
  6. Help team’s collaboration.
  7. Help the team self-organization. 
  8. Facilitate planning, reviews, and retrospectives.
  9. Ensure daily stand-up occurs and is conducted properly. 
  10. Understand and explain the team’s progress to interested stakeholders.

What Servant Leader (Scrum Master) must not do?

  1. Keeps the team dependent. The Scrum Master leaves the servant leader role in favor of the manager role when he or she:
    1. Directs the team to what to do.
    2. Organizes meetings instead facilitating them.
    3. Keeps the team in the dark about principles and practices. 
    4. Reports to management whether the team will meet the current forecast or not during the sprint.
  2. Manage daily stand-ups. The Scrum Master leaves the facilitator role in favor of the supervisor role when:
    1. The Scrum Master calls on team members to speak.
    2. The team members seek eye-contact with the Scrum Master before speaking.
    3. The team members direct their talk to the scrum master instead of the team. 

By Philip Sedhom