The 3 Keys to Servant Leadership

The 3 Keys to Servant Leadership

I just recently listened to a great webinar at with Jacqueline Carter from Potential Project.  In her presentation, she talks about “Leading with Mindfulness, Selflessness and Compassion.” Here are some of the highlights from this webinar along with some additional and relevant information to becoming a more Servant Leader.

cartoon of people following a leader up a mountain over a crevasse


For a leader, being mindful is absolutely necessary for success.  Mindful of our way of being, the energy we are emanating at any given time.  Our focus on projects, with people and how we respond to stressful situations.  Being mindful means pressing the pause button and thinking before speaking and/or responding.  Being mindful of our response, knowing that others will follow our lead and be impacted by our responses.  Are we focused or distracted? Are we aware or on autopilot?


As a servant leader, selflessness is part of leading and caring for those we are responsible for, on our team, and within our organizations.  Simple communication awareness where in our conversations we use “we”, “us”, “our” versus “I”, “me”, “my”.  Selfless leadership behavior enhances engagement, sense of belonging, team culture, allows for recognition of others and allows a more creative and innovative environment for solving problems.  Selfless means, as a leader, we give the credit to others, building their confidence and esteem.  As a leader when we are able to make others feel seen, safe, soothed and secure, we are coming from another’s focused mindset.  (by Dr. Dan Siegal)

  • Seen – this is not just seeing with the eyes.  It means perceiving them deeply and empathically — sensing the mind behind their behavior, with what Dr. Siegal calls “mindsight”. 
  • Safe – we avoid actions and responses that frighten or hurt others
  • Soothed – we help others deal with difficult emotions and situations
  • Secure – we help them develop an internalized sense of well-being.


Potential Project Survey research findings about compassion.  Most leaders have the intention to be of benefit to others.  91% of leaders surveyed said that compassion is very important for leadership.  However, 80% wanted to enhance their compassion and did not know how! Combining compassion and wisdom, where, as a leader, being able to have tough conversations with respect and clarity.  As a leader, we must always check our intention in any given situation, ask ourselves “how can I be of benefit with this person or in this situation?” and practice random acts of kindness.  Compassionate things leaders say every day:

  • How can I best support you?
  • What can we learn from this?
  • How can we do this better?
  • Help me to understand…
  • I believe in you
  • We are in this together

Ego is not a good servant

So, what gets in the way of all of this?  Our EGO!  EGO creates a culture of:

Text on orange background: Ego says I'm the answer. Servant leaders say we're the answer.
  • Top-down control
  • Power struggles
  • Fear of feedback (sees as criticism versus learning opportunity)
  • Self-interest (Me VS. We)
  • Withholding information
  • Blaming others
  • Silos between teams
  • Competitive Environment (Win-Lose mindset)

The leader who checks their EGO at the door creates a culture of:

  • Ownership thinking amongst staff members
  • Mutual empowerment
  • Collaboration
  • Openness to learning from mistakes
  • Sharing of information and knowledge
  • Mutual support and care for others success
  • Accountability
  • Unified team
  • Healthy debate and competition

Your Servant Leadership Challenge

To be a Servant Leader who is mindful, selfless and compassionate is not easy!  Start with simply telling yourself to: “Be here now!”  It is so easy to be on autopilot, and mindlessly respond/react to situations and people.  Do the Mental Orientation by simply slowing down for a few moments, taking a few deep breaths, thinking before responding, and, if necessary, hit the pause button.  Reflect, breathe and then respond.  These simple actions will help you be more a more mindful, selfless, and compassionate leader. 

Additional Resource: The Mind of the Leader by Rasmus Hougaard & Jacqueline Carter

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