A Comparison of Followership and Servant Leadership

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Followership and Servant Leadership

Followership and servant leadership are the best-desired traits for the success of relationships in an organization and are both similar in most aspects but the fact that good servant leaders must be excellent followers makes servant leadership be more unique as compared to followership. Robert Greenleaf first wrote the iconic essay “Servant as a leader” in 1977. He wrote that a person becomes a good servant leader by the desire to be selfless and to serve the interests of others before their own. A person must be an excellent follower in order to make a good servant leader.

The Importance of Listening and Understanding

A good servant leader must listen to and understand his or her subordinates’ views. A lot of information is passed from the subordinates up the chain to the leaders. A leader must get this information and work accordingly where possible in order to build a harmonious relationship with his or her followers. Similarly, a good follower follows the direction provided by their superiors in order to build trust. This helps to build an outstanding relationship between the leader and his or her follower because there exists a smooth communication channel to both ways up and down the hierarchy (Greenleaf, 2003).

Sense of Stewardship

Secondly, a person becomes an excellent follower or a great servant leader if they show a sense of stewardship. Servant leaders take responsibility for the actions and the performance of their followers. They are also accountable for the roles that an individual member of his or her team plays in an organization. This is because a servant leader leads by example and should, therefore, take responsibility for the results of any activity that he or she assigns to the team. Similarly, a good follower feels responsible for individual or a team’s actions. They take time to think about their own values as well as those of the organization and should account for their actions.

Relational Consideration

On the other hand, followership is different from servant leadership on the scope of relational consideration. A leader has a clearly designated number of defined relationships that he or she must be involved in. This is dictated by the structure of the organization which limits the number of interactions between leaders and their followers. A follower, however, is free to interact with everyone within the organization structure. He or she is involved in completing projects with other subordinates and therefore has a degree of freedom of interaction. They also give direct reports to their superiors, which makes their interactions unrestricted.

Positions in the Organization

It should be clearer that followership is different from servant leadership based on their positions in the organization. An excellent follower puts their seniors first and their needs come after those of their subordinates. This, in turn, strengthens the existing relationship between a follower and his or her seniors. On the other hand, a servant leader puts the needs of their subordinates first. They focus on serving their followers on their own (the followers’) good. They form strong long-term relationships with their followers and encourage them to attain their full potential.


In conclusion, servant leadership is different from followership because of the fact that a good servant leader must become first an excellent follower then have the desire to lead, thereby becoming a servant leader. Despite sharing common traits of stewardship and listening and understanding, it should be noted that however close the two terms seem to intertwine, they are by far two clearly distinct virtues. In my opinion, one must possess both the traits of a good servant leader and an excellent follower.


Greenleaf, R.K. (2003). Servant Leader Within: A transformative path. New York. Paulist Press


October 24, 2023



Corporations Management

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Company Leadership

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