Tip #73 Sample Board Policy on Servant-Leadership

October 1, 2021  |  tips for effective boards

If your board has decided to embrace servant-leadership, you may find it helpful to officially adopt a board policy on servant-leadership, perhaps something like the following sample policy.



Board Policy: Commitment to Servant-Leadership Values


Our board and its members shall strive to embody servant-leadership values in interactions among board members, in interactions with the CEO and staff, and in interactions with the organization’s ownership (i.e., key stakeholders) and other community organizations and members.


1.       We are inspired by the best test of servant-leadership articulated by Robert K. Greenleaf:


“Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?” (Robert K. Greenleaf, “The Servant as Leader” in Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. 25th Anniversary Edition. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2002, p. 27)


2.       As individual board members and as a whole board, we shall strive to embody the following characteristics of servant-leaders:


a.       Focus on and care about others.

b.      Listen to understand and learn from others.

c.       Withdraw for reflection.

d.      Collaborate and share power with others.

e.      See the big picture.

f.        Exercise foresight.

g.       Become the change.


3.       Our board shall sustain and enhance its commitment to the values of servant leadership.


a.       An overview of servant-leadership shall be part of the orientation of new board members.

b.      Our board shall have occasional educational sessions on servant-leadership and a brief opportunity at each board meeting to reflect on servant-leadership values.

c.       Our board shall encourage individual board members to develop an advanced appreciation of the values of servant-leadership.

d.      Our board shall ensure that preparation for board leadership positions includes education specific to servant-leadership.

e.      In times of CEO transition, our board shall seek a CEO whose leadership style is consistent with servant-leadership values. Our board shall also be supportive of CEO access to ongoing training and professional development opportunities related to servant-leadership.

f.        Our board shall engage in ongoing self-evaluation of its governance practice grounded in servant-leadership values.


Related Comments:


1.       The list of characteristics of servant-leaders presented above is a list that I have developed. You may wish to consider others lists, such as those developed by Larry Spears (“Ten Characteristics of a Servant-Leader” at www.spearscenter.org and by James Sipe and Don Frick (Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership. Revised and Expanded Edition. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2015). Or develop your own list of the servant-leader characteristics your board wishes to emphasize and operationalize in its board and organization.


2.       If you wish to provide definitions of the characteristics that you decide to list in your board policy, you may wish to check out previous Tips for Effective Boards, Tips 69, 70, and 71: https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/blog


This Tip for Effective Boards is the last in our six-part series on servant-leadership. To check out any of the following Tips in this series, please click https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/blog


                Tip 68: Should Boards Embrace Servant-Leadership?

                Tip 69: Characteristics of Servant-Leaders

                Tip 70: Additional Characteristics of Servant-Leaders

                Tip 71: How Your Board Can Embrace Servant-Leadership

                Tip 72: Sustain and Enhance Your Board’s Commitment to Servant-Leadership

                Tip 73: Sample Board Policy on Servant-Leadership


To learn more about servant-leadership, google servant-leadership or Robert K. Greenleaf or visit the Spears Center for Servant-Leadership: www.spearscenter.org.   


To learn more about the Policy Governance® model, please click        https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/policy-governance.  


To check out any of the other Tips for Effective Boards, please click  https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/blog.