Learning About Servant Leadership - Here is Some Direction - Resources for the Beginning Servant LeaderIf you’re interested in servant-leadership and seek a good place to start, you came to the right place!

The list below originated from a discussion in the Servant Leadership LinkedIn group. I compiled the results and updated it over the years.  At the end is a summary and next steps, depending where you are on your servant-leadership journey. The resources are broken out by category, so you jump to the section most relevant to you:

Category of Resource:


Most Popular Servant Leadership Books

Books listed in this section are among the most frequently recommended. In fact, I counted responses and I believe these were the most consistent recommendation in the LinkedIn Group responses.

Resource: The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership
Author: James Hunter
Category: Book
Date: 1998
Review: Definitely the most popular book recommendation in the discussion, this is also my suggestion for the first book for beginners. This fable-based book introduces the concept of servant leadership through a businessman who attends a retreat where he is educated on the principles of servant leadership.

Resource: Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Power of Legitimate Greatness
Author: Robert K. Greenleaf
Category: Book
Date: 1977 (Original)
My Thoughts: Definitely the second most popular recommendation from the discussion and the book that started it all, sort of. Greenleaf is often referenced as the father of modern servant leadership. He is known as the man who coined the term “servant leader”. As a result, it is rare to find a servant leadership text without some reference to this book or one of the original essays contained within it. If you’re serious about servant leadership, you must read this book. If you’re just starting out though, it may not be the best choice for your first book on the matter.

Resource: Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness
Author: Larry C. Spears
Category: Book
Date: 2004
Review: A compilation of leading educators and authors on servant leadership principles. Included among these is the editor, Larry Spears, who was CEO of the Greenleaf center for nearly 20 years and now runs the Spears Center for Servant Leadership.

Resource: The Art of Servant Leadership
Author: Tony Barron
Category: Book
Date: 2010
Review: Authored by the president of the Servant Leadership Institute, a division of Datron World Communications, the book includes a story on how one CEO transitioned his company to servant leadership.

Resource: The Case For Servant Leadership
Author: Dr. Kent Keith
Category: Book
Date: 2008
Review: Authored by the current CEO of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, this book provides a broad background and support for servant leadership.

Resource: The Ken Blanchard Company Books
Author: Ken Blanchard & Others
Category: Book
Date: Varied
Review: There were several recommendations for books from Ken Blanchard and team. Among my favorites are Gung Ho, Servant LeadershipOne Minuet Manager. Raving Fans was also recommended, though I have not yet read this one.

Other Recommended Servant Leadership Books

The following books were also recommended or are additions I suggest for individuals looking to learn more about servant leadership. They may not be as popular as some of the others, but they have much too offer.

Resource: Making the Grass Greener on Your Side
Author: Ken Melrose
Category: Book
Date: 1995
This book, written by the former CEO of Toro Motor Company, explains how servant leadership evolved and became the corner stone for a turnaround at the company. This is an excellent resource, particularly for those in the business field.

Resource: The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader
Author: James Hunter
Category: Book
Date: 2004
Review: A follow up to Hunter’s “The Servant”, this is also a great book. However, I would recommend reading his first book (see above), first.

Resource: The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance
Author: James Autry
Category: Book
Date: 2004
Another great example for practitioners in business, this book is written by a former Fortune 500 executive.

Resource: The Ken Blanchard Company Books
Author: Ken Blanchard & Others
Category: Book
Date: Varied
Review: There were several recommendations for books from Ken Blanchard and team. Among my favorites are Gung Ho, Servant LeadershipOne Minuet Manager. Raving Fans was also recommended, though I have not yet read this one.

Books About Servant Leadership Principles

Books listed in this section may not be specifically or entirely about servant leadership. However, they may have large sections devoted to servant leadership or cover many principles that align with servant leadership. Either way, these books are frequently referenced by servant leadership educators, authors and practitioners.

Resource: Paradigm Flip: Leading People, Teams, and Organizations Beyond the Social Media Revolution
Author: Ben Lichtenwalner
Category: Book
Date: 2014
My own book, this book focuses on the power of social and digital media for leaders. It includes a primer on servant-leadership principles.

Resource: Leadership is an Art
Author: Max De Pree
Category: Book
Date: 2004
My all-time favorite leadership book by my favorite leadership author. If you have not read this book, you should.

Resource: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits Passion and Purpose
Author: Tony Hsieh
Category: Book
Date: 2010
This book is an excellent example of how servant leadership can drive success for the most contemporary business. It is written by the CEO  of Zappos.com, an online retailer, and covers how servant leadership played a role in the company’s success.

Resource: Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value
Bill George
Category: Book
Date: 2004
Review: I had the chance to speak with Bill George, former CEO of Medco, back in 2009 (see The Future of Leadership). I think his perspectives on servant leadership are excellent. I also appreciate his candid reflections on his experience and down to earth attitude.

Resource: Good to Great
Author: Jim Collins
Category: Book
Date: 2001
Description: Although not specifically referred to as servant leadership, Collins regards “Level 5 Leadership” as a critical component of taking organizations from Good to Great. Many servant leadership proponents (myself included) consider what Collins names as “Level 5 Leadership” to be servant leadership.

Resource: It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks
Author: Howard Behar
Category: Book
Date: 2009
Description: Founding president of Starbucks International and former president of Starbucks North America, Howard Behar details how servant leadership was used in Starbucks rapid growth years.

Resource: The Journey to the East
Author: Herman Hesse
Category: Book
Date: 1956
Review: The original inspiration for Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership that was the origin of the term (more above). Similar to Greenleaf’s works, this is a must read for anyone serious about servant leadership. However, it is not among the first books I would suggest reading when starting your research.

Resource: Lead Like Jesus
Author: Ken Blanchard & Phil Hodges
Date: 2008

Resource: Serve to Lead®–Your Transformational 21st Century Leadership System
James Strock
Category: Book
Date: 2010

Resource: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
Author: Greg Mortenson
Category: Book
Date: 2007

Other Recommended Servant Leadership Resources

The resources listed here are not books but also received recommendations from the group for beginning servant leaders.

Resource: Servant Leadership: An Introduction to the Power of Leadership Through Service
Author: Benjamin Lichtenwalner
Category: Presentation (Powerpoint)
Date: 2008
Review: I was honored to have my own presentation (as well as this site) included among the recommendations. I created this presentation with precisely this purpose in mind: to provide a brief, simple, but broad introduction to servant leadership. I hope you enjoy it.

Resource: The Understanding and Practice of Servant Leadership
Author: Larry Spears
Category: Article
Date: 2005

People (Servant Leaders) to Study

The following list of individuals are examples of servant leaders. You may find reading their biographies researching their beliefs and accomplishments helpful. Each description of these individuals is sourced from Wikipedia.

Name: Martin Luther King Jr.
Lived: 1929 – 1968
Description: An American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement. In addition to the Wikipedia link from his name above, you may find my post on Martin Luther King Jr. as a model of servant leadership useful.

Name: Jesus Christ
Lived: 0 – 33
Description: The central figure of Christianity. Most Christian denominations venerate him as God the Son incarnated and believe that he rose from the dead after being crucified.

Name: Robert F. Kennedy
Lived: 1925 – 1968
Description: An American politician, a Democratic senator from New York, and a noted civil rights activist..

Name: Albert Schweitzer
Lived: 1875 – 1965
Description: A Franco-German (Alsatian) theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary.

Name: Mother Teresa
Lived: 1910 – 1997
Description: A Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India in 1950.

Name: Mohandas Gandhi
Lived: 1869 – 1948
Description: A pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement.

Name: W.E.B. Dubois
Lived: 1868 – 1963
Description: An intellectual leader in the United States as sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor. In addition to the Wikipedia link on his name, you may find my post of Dubois as a model of servant leadership valuable.

Name: Ernest Shackleton
Lived: 1874 – 1922
Description: An Irish-born British explorer who was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Name: Corrie ten Boom
Lived: 1892 – 1983
Description: A Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II.

Name: Sitting Bull
Lived: 1831 – 1890
Description: A Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man who led his people as a war chief during years of resistance to United States government policies.

Name: Nelson Mandela
Lived: 1918 –
Description: Served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

Name: Herb Kelleher
Lived: 1931 –
Description: The co-founder, and Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of Southwest Airlines.

Name: Sojourner Truth
Lived: 1797 – 1883
Description: An African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. In addition to the Wikipedia link on her name, you may find my post of Sojourner as a model of servant leadership valuable.

Name: Harriet Jacobs
Lived: 1813 – 1897
Description: An American writer, who escaped from slavery and became an abolitionist speaker and reformer. In addition to the Wikipedia link on her name, you may find my post of Jacobs as a model of servant leadership valuable.

Name: Harriet Tubman
Lived: 1820 – 1930
Description: An African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. In addition to the Wikipedia link on her name, you may find my post of Tubman as a model of servant leadership valuable.

Name: Ralph Bunche
Lived: 1903 – 1971
Description: An American political scientist and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine. In addition to the Wikipedia link on her name, you may find my post of Bunche as a model of servant leadership valuable.

Recommendation for the Beginning Servant Leader

There are a lot of great resources here. So how do you know where to begin? Here is my suggestion for anyone who is interested in the topic of servant leadership and looking to learn more:

1. Get the Free & Brief Material: Begin by reading a couple of free, online resources. You can start right on this site, with An Introduction to Servant Leadership and the Servant Leadership 101 course. In addition,  there is a Powerpoint presentation I created for an introduction that is even more brief. For other sites with great introductory material, check out the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership or the Spears Center for Servant Leadership.

2. Get a Great Overview Book: I recommend Hunter’s The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership as a starting point. I’m not alone. As I noted above, this seems to be the most popular recommendation for introductory reading. After that, or if you’re looking for something different, pick a book from the most popular book section. These books will all provide you a solid foundation in servant leadership principles.

3. Get Serious: Once you’ve got a solid foundation, if you’re interested in really going deep on the topic, I suggest you look for something specific to your particular area of interest. For example, if you’re looking for servant leadership in business, Ken Melrose’s Making the Grass Greener on Your Side, Howard Behar’s It’s Not About the Coffee or James Autry’s The Servant Leader. If you’re more interested in spiritual matters or NPOs, there are other books listed above that may be more appropriate. However, if you are studying servant leadership or really researching the matter for any reason, you definitely should read Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Power of Legitimate Greatness. Just don’t let it be the only book you read on the topic.

There you have it! The above list of resources should be more than enough to get you started on your servant leadership journey. My thanks to the LinkedIn Servant Leadership group for all the great input I used here, I hope you find the categorization and summation helpful.

Questions: What additional resources would you recommend? Which of these are your favorite?

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]