Servant leadership, a leadership approach in which the leader aims to serve their team rather than exercise power over them, can be incredibly valuable in the context of project management. Effective project management requires the ability to unite a diverse team of specialists and steer them towards a single common goal. Servant leadership focuses on empowering and uplifting the team, which can streamline project management processes and increase their effectiveness. It is also an important value outlined in the guide of the Project Management Professional (PMP)®, a globally recognized professional certification.

The tenets of servant leadership, as identified by Robert K. Greenleaf, encompass listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.

Table of Contents

How does this approach translate to project management?

  • Listening: A servant leader prioritizes the views and responses of the team, which can be critical in decision-making and problem-solving in project management. For example, a project manager leading a software implementation project would actively seek out and listen to the perspectives of their developers and analysts to make informed decisions.
  • Empathy: This isn’t about sympathizing or feeling sorry for a team member. Instead, it’s about understanding their perspectives and concerns without judgment. An empathetic project manager, for instance, can better grasp the hurdles faced by a team member and help them overcome them. It can be the difference between retaining a talented team member and unknowingly pushing them away.
  • Healing: Projects can be stressful, especially when deadlines are approaching, and things aren’t going as planned. As a servant leader, the project manager should aim to maintain a healthy working atmosphere and assist team members in overcoming work stress.
  • Awareness: This deals with the leader’s self-awareness and their awareness of others and the business environment. In project management, being aware can mean understanding how a change in business strategy affects the project or perhaps how the interpersonal dynamics within a team affect productivity.
  • Persuasion: Servant leaders rely on persuasion to shape decisions instead of using their authority to command. For example, a project manager might need to persuade a stakeholder about the viability of a project deliverable instead of just asserting its efficacy.
  • Conceptualization: This involves thinking beyond day-to-day operations. For a project manager, this ability can entail seeing how a project fits into the larger business strategy or looking ahead to anticipate any roadblocks that might come up.
  • Foresight: A servant leader uses their experience, current reality, and understanding of consequences to predict future outcomes. For project managers, the ability to foresee potential project risks earlier would allow them to manage the risks appropriately.
  • Stewardship: Servant leaders feel a strong sense of responsibility to manage their people and resources effectively. This aligns with the project manager’s role as they must ensure project resources are used effectively and ethically to achieve project goals.
  • Commitment to the Growth of People: Servant leaders believe in nurturing their team, encouraging both personal and professional growth. For project managers, this could involve identifying training needs or helping team members enhance their skills.
  • Building Community: This tenet recognizes the value of a sense of community among a team. In project management terms, creating a team spirit and a sense of cohesiveness can enhance productivity and keep morale high, even during challenging phases of the project.

These elements of servant leadership align to the core tenets of effective project management, as proposed by the Project Management Institute (PMI)® in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® Guide.

In conclusion, servant leadership can be a powerful tool in project management. It fosters an environment of respect and collaboration, empowering teams and leading to more efficient, effective projects. For those preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, understanding the value and principles of servant leadership can prove immensely beneficial, both for the test and in your future management endeavors.

Overall, servant leadership aligns well with the dynamic, people-centric nature of project management. Be it in dealing with project scopes, risk management, stakeholder engagement, or any of the other varied aspects of managing a project, its principles pave the way to a more collaborative and fruitful experience.

Embrace servant leadership, and watch your project performance soar!

Practice Test

True or False: Servant leadership style is focused on serving the needs of the team first before the needs of the leader.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: The main tenet of servant leadership is putting the needs of the team members first, and helping them perform as highly as possible.

Servant leadership relates to project management by:

  • A. Prioritizing the needs of the project manager
  • B. Emphasizing serving the needs of the team members
  • C. Neglecting team feedback
  • D. Ignoring the needs of the project

Answer: B. Emphasizing serving the needs of the team members

Explanation: In servant leadership, the focus is on serving the needs of the team members, helping them to perform at their best.

In the servant leadership model, communication is often:

  • A. One-sided from leader to follower
  • B. Two-way, active communication
  • C. Nonexistent
  • D. Only from follower to leader

Answer: B. Two-way, active communication

Explanation: Servant leaders encourage active, two-way communication and value feedback from team members.

True or False: Servant leaders are not concerned with building a sense of community within the team.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Building a strong community within the team is a key aspect of servant leadership.

Multiple select: Which of the following are tenets of servant leadership that can be applied to a team:

  • A. Building trust within the team
  • B. Ignoring the opinions of team members
  • C. Serving the needs of the team members first
  • D. Avoiding decision making

Answer: A. Building trust within the team, C. Serving the needs of the team members first

Explanation: Building trust and serving the needs of the team first are essential aspects of servant leadership.

True or False: In a project management context, a servant leader enforces his or her authority rather than listening to the team’s needs.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: A servant leader listens first to understand the needs of the team rather than enforcing their authority.

The role of a servant leader includes:

  • A. Focusing primarily on their career advancement
  • B. Fostering a sense of community within the team
  • C. Avoiding any conflict within the team
  • D. Taking credit for the team’s success

Answer: B. Fostering a sense of community within the team

Explanation: One of the roles of a servant leader is to foster a sense of community within the team.

True or False: A Servant leader refrains from sharing power and decision-making with the team.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Servant leaders actually encourage power sharing and participatory decision-making.

Servant leadership can improve a team’s performance through all of the following EXCEPT:

  • A. Creating a more engaged workforce.
  • B. Building a culture of trust.
  • C. Implementing authoritative decision-making.
  • D. Enhancing team collaboration and communication.

Answer: C. Implementing authoritative decision-making.

Explanation: The servant leadership style encourages shared decision-making, not authoritative.

True or False: Servant Leadership leads to better team collaboration and promotes a positive team culture.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: Servant leadership focuses on the growth and well-being of team members, which foster collaboration and cultivate a positive culture in the team.

Interview Questions

How does the concept of servant leadership relate to team management in project management?

Servant leadership in project management means the project manager puts the needs of the team first, helping them develop and perform to their maximum potential. It increases team motivation, improves team communication, and strengthens team efficiency, leading ultimately to improved project outcomes.

Which principle of servant leadership talks about focusing on the growth and well-being of the community?

The principle of “Building Community” encourages servant leaders to identify and meet the needs of the overall community, resulting in a stronger and more aligned team.

How does the principle of “Empathy” in servant leadership apply in project management?

Empathy, a key aspect of servant leadership, involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. In project management, this means truly understanding the needs, concerns, and perspectives of the team and stakeholders, which can aid in decision-making and conflict resolution.

What is the role of “listening” in the context of servant leadership in project management?

“Listening” in servant leadership is about understanding the needs and suggestions of the team. It involves active listening to capture not just what the team is saying, but what they mean as well. This significantly improves communication and promotes a healthy team atmosphere.

What is the benefit of the servant leadership aspect of “Stewardship” in project management?

Stewardship emphasizes the leader’s role as a caretaker of resources and trust. In project management, by being careful stewards, leaders can ensure resources are allocated and utilized efficiently while maintaining the team’s trust.

How does “Healing” as a characteristic of servant leadership contribute to project management?

Healing in servant leadership speaks to the ability to help mend emotional hurts and build a healthy team. It can contribute to project management by promoting a supportive environment where the team members feel valued, improving their motivation and productivity.

How does the concept of “Persuasion” in servant leadership apply to project management?

Persuasion in servant leadership refers to influencing others through convincing arguments rather than coercion. In project management, this enables the leader to gain team consensus and motivate them towards project objectives without enforcing power.

How does “Foresight” as a tenet of servant leadership relate to project management?

Foresight in servant leadership is the ability to foresee likely outcomes and potential issues. In project management, this assists in risk identification and project planning, allowing for better decision making.

What is “Awareness” in servant leadership, and how does it apply to project management?

Awareness is understanding one’s self, others, and the environment. In project management, this aids in identifying the needs of the team, understanding project challenges, and making informed decisions.

How can the “Commitment to the growth of people” as a servant leadership tenet be beneficial in project management?

This tenet encourages leaders to foster personal and professional growth among team members. In project management, this can enhance the team’s overall skills and competence, leading to improved project outcomes.

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