Servant Leader Discipline #4: Provides Leadership

The fifth in a seven-part series:

In addition to Valuing & Developing People and Building Community …

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Servant leaders Provide Leadership – Servant leaders provide vision, take courageous action, mobilize others to act and create positive movement and change.

Yes, servant leaders serve, but they also lead providing clear direction and purpose for others.

There are four key functions of leading; Vision, Action, Mobilization and Change. Leading involves seeing a preferred future, taking bold action to move toward the new reality, mobilizing others to join with you together to create change to move the world.

The simple formula of V + A + M = C captures these four functions well. In contrast, managing calls for four different (but related) functions represented by the formula; P + O + D = S … Planning + Organization + Directing = Stability.

If you would like to do a free self-assessment of your own preferred Leader/Manager functions based on this model, click here: 

Leader - Manager Assessment

Our purpose here is to look at leadership from a servant perspective so we will leave the idea of managing to another time. The truth is that servant leaders serve; but also that servant leaders lead. You cannot claim to be a servant leader without fulfilling the key functions of leading. This flies in the face of a common misconception about servant leadership; that servant leaders don’t lead their followers but they follow the whims of others. This is not an accurate perception of what servant leadership is all about. Servant leaders lead. And, they do so by casting a vision, acting courageously toward the vision and mobilizing others to accept and act on the vision. Let’s look at each of these functions separately.

by Envisioning the Future (Vision)

Envision the Future [Vision]

Leadership is about the future. It begins with a vision in the mind’s eye of the leader. The leader considers; what is wrong that needs to be made right? What problem should be addressed and what will it look like once this problem is solved? What kind of future should we be creating together? The servant leader addresses these critical questions through the lens of serving others. As Greenleaf tells us, “not much happens without a dream and for something great to happen there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality, but the dream must be there first.” Servant leaders create a vision for the development of their workers as well as the entire organization.

by Taking the Initiative (Action)

Servant leaders know that following hard after a vision requires a special kind of courage.

In Servants of the People (1996) Lea Williams tells the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, who during the civil rights Freedom Summer of 1962 decided that continuing to live in fear was longer an option. Hamer decided to take action to help the black citizens of Mississippi register to vote. In response, she was evicted from her home, beaten and put in jail, but she would not be deterred. She crusaded throughout the state to address poverty, education needs, and equal rights for blacks at a time when oppression was strong and opposition fierce … ‘I grew up believin’ in God,’ she shared, ‘but I knew things was bad wrong, and I used to think, let me have a chance, and whatever this is that’s wrong in Mississippi, I’m gonna do somethin’ about it.’ (Laub, 2018)

Fannie Lou Hamer knew that leadership requires courageous action. To serve a cause greater than yourself and to serve those that you lead requires courage; the courage to act to make a difference. There is no other way.

by Clarifying Goals & Direction (Mobilization)

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Leading doesn’t stop with individual courage, it calls on others to join up and share in the vision. When people are mobilized toward a great vision they share, an immense power is released creating a dynamic we call leadership. Leadership happens when leaders and followers come together around a common purpose and vision to create change. Leaders work to clarify goals and direction so that others know how they best fit in to contribute what only they can. Leaders know how to find the best in themselves and others to take the most appropriate action to create change.

And, producing change is the outcome of leading. Creating a new reality; a better future that will serve the best interest of others.

In the remaining two 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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