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There are as many theories on leadership as there are leaders in the world. There's always a new leadership catchphrase going around, a new leadership book written, and another leadership seminar to sit in on. Regardless of what they're called, or what's written about them, there are a few characteristics applied to defined leadership styles that all coaches should display.

Of the many, many...MANY leadership courses and seminars I've attended, and books and articles I've read on the topic, the two below are, by far, the most impactful for coaches.  


Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders. This is because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. AND, transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.



The most popular theory of leadership today is transformational leadership. This concept was originally focused on leaders who "transform" groups or organizations; transformational leaders focus on followers, motivating them to high levels of performance, and in the process, help followers develop their own leadership potential.


Servant leadership is a style where the leader is a servant first. The leader ensures other people's highest priority needs are filled first and focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of those around him. The servant leader shares the decision-making responsibility, putting the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.




There are 4 components to transformational leadership, I've seen them called the 4 I's:


Idealized Influence (II) - the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers; the leader "walks the talk," and is admired for this.


Inspirational Motivation (IM) - Transformational leaders have

the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combined these first

two I's are what constitute the transformational leader's charisma.


Individualized Consideration (IC) - Transformational leaders

demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of

followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key

element in bringing out their very best efforts.


Intellectual Stimulation (IS) - the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are "soft," but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance.












Here are some items from a measure of transformational leadership. Answer the questions below to see if you have transformational leadership qualities (Agree or Disagree).


1. I would never require a follower to do something that I wouldn't do myself.

2. My followers would say that they know what I stand for.

3. Inspiring others has always come easy to me.

4. My followers have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.

5. My followers would say that I am very attentive to their needs and concerns.

6. Even though I could easily do a task myself, I delegate it to expand my followers' skills.

7. Team creativity and innovation are the keys to success.

8. I encourage my followers to question their most basic way of thinking.


(Items 1 & 2 = II; 3 & 4 = IM; 5 & 6 = IC; 7 & 8 = IS)

4 Ways to Become a Transformational Leader

1. Create an Inspiring Vision of the Future

2. Motivate your team to buy into and deliver the vision

3. Manage the delivery of the vision

4. Build stronger, trust-based relationships with your people

"Leadership is not about titles; it is not about seniority. It is not about status, and it is not about management. Leadership is about power and the ability to know when and how to use it to influence the people around you to do and become more! 

Transformational leadership is about using your actions to elevate others and put them on their path to greatness." 

Teriaz R. Allen, President & CEO

ARVis Institute

Develop the 
Grow the person
Servant Leadership


Everyone on Beckett's team knows that he's "there for

them." He checks in with them often to see how they

are, and he helps them develop the skills they need to

advance their careers, even if this means that they may

move on.


Beckett also makes an effort to see situations from

others' perspectives. He makes decisions with the

team's best interests in mind and ensures that

everyone has the resources and knowledge they

need to meet their objectives.


As a result of this, his team is one of the most successful

in the department, with low staff turnover and high engagement.


Beckett is an example of a "servant leader." Below we'll explore what servant leadership is, and the advantages it can bring you as a leader. We'll also look at situations where it isn't appropriate.


What Is Servant Leadership?













Robert K. Greenleaf first coined the phrase "servant leadership" in his 1970 essay, "The Servant as a Leader." However, it's an approach that people have used for centuries.


As a servant leader,                                                                              you're a "servant first" – you focus on the needs                                                                            of others, especially team members,                                                                                            before you consider your own. You                                                                                                    acknowledge other people's                                                                                                   perspectives, give them the                                                                                               support they need to meet their work                                                                                     and personal goals, involve them in decisions                                                                   where appropriate and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders. It can also lead to increased innovation.


Servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique as such. Rather it's a way of behaving that you adopt over the longer term. It complements Democratic leadership styles, and it has similarities with Transformational Leadership – which is often the most effective style to use in business situations – and Level 5 Leadership  – which is where leaders demonstrate humility in the way they work.

However, servant leadership is problematic in hierarchical, autocratic cultures where managers and leaders are expected to make all the decisions. Here, servant leaders may struggle to earn respect.



Remember that servant leadership is about focusing on other people's needs – not their feelings. Don't avoid making unpopular decisions or giving team members negative feedback when this is needed.


Also, do not rely on it exclusively – use it alongside styles like Transformational Leadership, where you develop an inspiring vision of the future, motivate people to deliver this, manage its implementation, and build an ever-stronger team.


How to Become a Servant Leader

According to Larry C. Spears, former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, these are the 10 most important characteristics of servant leaders:


  1. Listening.

  2. Empathy.

  3. Healing.

  4. Awareness.

  5. Persuasion.

  6. Conceptualization.

  7. Foresight.

  8. Stewardship.

  9. Commitment to the growth of people.

  10. Building community.


Once you've decided to prioritize other people's needs over your own in the long term, you can work on developing your skills in each area. Here's how you can do this.


1. Listening

You'll serve people better when you make a deep commitment to listening intently to them and understanding what they're saying. To improve your listening skills, give people your full attention, take notice of their body language, avoid interrupting them before they've finished speaking, and give feedback on what they say.


2. Empathy

Servant leaders strive to understand other people's intentions and perspectives. You can be more empathetic by putting aside your viewpoint temporarily, valuing others' perspectives, and approaching situations with an open mind.


3. Healing

This characteristic relates to the emotional health and "wholeness" of people and involves supporting them both physically and mentally.






First, make sure that your people have the knowledge, support, and resources they need to do their jobs effectively, and that they have a healthy workplace. Then take steps to help them be happy and engaged in their roles.


You could also use a tool such as the Triple Bottom Line to think about how your organization can make a positive impact on the people you lead and the customers you serve.


4. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to look at yourself, think deeply about your emotions and behavior, and consider how they affect the people around you and align with your values.


You can become more self-aware by knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and asking for other people's feedback on them. Also, learn to manage your emotions, so that you consider how your actions and behavior might affect others.


5. Persuasion

Servant leaders use persuasion – rather than their authority – to encourage people to take action. They also aim to build consensus in groups, so that everyone supports decisions.


There are many tools and models that you can use to be more persuasive, without damaging relationships or taking advantage of others. You should also build your expert power  – when people perceive you as an expert, they are more likely to listen to you when you want to persuade or inspire them.


6. Conceptualization

This characteristic relates to your ability to "dream great dreams," so that you look beyond day-to-day realities to the bigger picture.


If you're the head coach with a few assistants, work through and develop a robust team strategy. Then, whatever level you're at, create mission and vision statements for your team, and make it clear how people's roles tie in with your team's and school's long-term objectives. Also, develop long-term focus so that you stay motivated to achieve your more distant goals, without getting distracted.


7. Foresight

Foresight is when you can predict what's likely to happen in the future by learning from past experiences, identifying what's happening now, and understanding the consequences of your decisions.


You can use tools such as SWOT Analysis and PEST Analysis (business concepts) to think about your current situation and environment, while Scenario Analysis (another one) helps you understand how the future could play out. Use the ORAPAPA checklist (and another) when you make a decision, to learn from experience and make sure that you've considered all the angles.


Also, learn to trust your intuition – if your instinct is telling you that something is wrong, listen to it!


8. Stewardship

Stewardship is about taking responsibility for the actions and performance of your team and being accountable for the role team members play in your organization.


Whether you're the head coach or not, you have a responsibility for the things that happen in your lane. Take time to think about your own values, as well as those of your team, so that you know what you will and won't stand for. Also, lead by example by demonstrating the values and behaviors that you want to see in others, and have the confidence to stand up to people when they act in a way that isn't aligned with them.


9. Commitment to the Growth of People

Servant leaders are committed to the personal and professional development of everyone on their teams.


To develop your people, make sure that you use Training Needs Assessments to understand their developmental needs and give them the skills they need to do their jobs effectively. Also, find out what their personal goals are, and see if you can give them projects or additional responsibilities that will help them achieve these.


10. Building Community

The last characteristic is to do with building a sense of community within your team.


You can do this by providing opportunities for people to interact with one another across the team, outside of the practice field. For instance, you could organize social events such as team lunches and barbecues, and dedicate the first few minutes of practices to non-practice-related conversations.


Encourage people to take responsibility for their play, and remind them how what they do contributes to the success and overall objectives of the team.


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