Servant Leader Discipline #3: Builds Community

The fourth in a seven-part series:

In addition to Valuing & Developing People …

Servant Leaders Build Community

Servant leaders Build Community – Servant leaders believe in the power of team.

They work to build strong positive relationships and are willing to accept the differences of others as a strength for the collective. They encourage collaborative work over competition and are committed to building a sense of belonging and community throughout the entire organization. Getting the job done is not enough. Servant leaders are also concerned about the health and strength of the team and the overall sense of community presence throughout the organization. Servant leaders accomplish this:

by Building Relationships

Servant leaders do not accept lone-ranger success over team accomplishment. They encourage friendships and provide forums for these relationships to emerge and deepen. As Desmond Tutu states “a person is a person through other persons.” In other words, we each become more fully ourselves and are able to reach our potential only as we relate well with other people. Yes, leading begins with the individual but it is fulfilled only within community. We need each other for life, love and work. As servant leaders we understand this powerful dynamic; that we must build up each person by building the community in which they exist. People need to know that they belong, that they have something valuable to contribute and that by serving others they too can lead to make a difference.

by Working Collaboratively

Collaborate rather than Compete

Some leaders believe that by pitting worker against worker in a competitive battle, more will be accomplished. Servant leaders understand that we must move beyond competition to true collaboration so that the true power and synergy of team is revealed. The simple truth is that we can do more together than we can do separately. We need each other to be our own best and only in community do we find the amazing potential we each possess.

Kouzes and Posner (2012) share the results of an experiment in which participants were told that they were playing either the Community Game or the Wall Street Game. Both games were played by the same rules; in fact, they were exactly the same game except for the different titles. Interestingly, 70% of those who played the game under the title Community Game played cooperatively from start to finish while those who played the game under the name of the Wall Street Game reacted in an opposite manner. Seventy percent did not cooperate and when the 30% who started to play cooperatively saw the lack of cooperation from the larger group they also stopped cooperating. (Laub, 2018)

Amazing, isn’t it. Just the suggestion provided from a different game title made a difference in people’s willingness to compete or collaborate. Servant leaders work to enhance a spirit of collaboration and cooperation at all levels of the organization.

by Valuing Differences

Servant leaders respect and celebrate differences in ethnicity, race, gender, age and culture. They know the power of bringing these differences together into a collaborative community committed to each other and the task they share. Sun Tzu writing from the fifth century BC in China shares it this way,

Sun Tzu Quote - Design by Hollis

The servant leader knows, of course, that there is not only a unique beauty that comes from differences, but there are also unique challenges as we work to bring these differences together through inevitable conflict and disagreement. The servant leader knows however that this challenge is the only way to true community commitment and true team effectiveness. We need to work through our differences with honesty, authenticity and a commitment to each other in Community.

Over the next three articles in this series we will dig deeper into each of the remaining key disciplines of servant leadership to better understand how they work, how they are perceived and how they are critical for developing organizational health and performance. I welcome your thoughts and questions. 

Your Fellow Servant,



Laub, J.A. (2017). 40 days toward a servant leader mindset. Jupiter, Florida: Servant Leader Performance.

Laub, J.A. (2018) Leveraging the power of servant leadership: Building high performance   organizations. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan.

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