How The Leadership Challenge® Enables the Growth of Servant Leaders

How The Leadership Challenge® Enables the Growth of Servant Leaders

The Five Practices

As a Global Training Partner of The Leadership Challenge®, we at Integris frequently are asked about how our work ties to the concepts of servant leadership, a philosophy and model grounded in the teachings and writings of Robert Greenleaf back in the mid-1960s. It is a question that I always enjoy hearing from people, as I see The Leadership Challenge as a way to bring servant leadership to life for an organization.

Servant-leaders deliver their best while striving to build the capacity of coworkers to become better each day. They follow and are empowered by key philosophies and practices that support their conscious choice to serve. The underlying philosophy of servant leadership is respectful and participatory guidance in working toward common objectives. It is about helping a leader’s team members feel valued as much as it is about achieving results.

In our view, the overarching language of The Leadership Challenge supports this philosophy across each of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. Both The Leadership Challenge and servant leadership emphasize seeing the unique skills individuals bring to the team, and putting those individuals in positions to succeed. The leader’s success is only realized in the team’s success. Therefore, the leader has to understand and value the team enough to Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process—and both Enable them to act and Encourage their hearts.

Some researchers have defined servant leadership as including the competencies of vision, influence, credibility, and trust. These, too, are closely linked to The Five Practices model and its supporting research, and are found to be both learnable and measurable qualities. In addition, other researchers have included emotional healing, creating value for the community, conceptual skills, empowering, helping subordinates grow and succeed, putting subordinates first, behaving ethically, relationships, and servant-hood as key skills and attributes of the servant leader—again, all core competencies and behaviors essential to exemplary leadership as demonstrated by The Five Practices and the associated 30 behaviors measured by the LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory®.

Servant Leadership’s Core Competencies
The modern servant leadership model defines 10 core competencies for servant-leaders and serves as the basis from which all other research, writings, and books on servant leadership are founded.
  1. Authentic Listening 
  2. Empathy 
  3. Healing 
  4. Self-awareness 
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization 
  7. Foresight 
  8. Stewardship 
  9. Commitment to the Growth of the People 
  10. Building Community 
Developing and perfecting these competencies involves a deliberate, long-term developmental process. An emerging servant-leader understands and behaves in a manner consistent with improving along these 10 dimensions with each leadership opportunity. That these opportunities are available every day makes the learning process a constant, incremental endeavor.

The Leadership Challenge Framework
At Integris, we find that the overarching framework of The Leadership Challenge serves to support the development of all of the 10 dimensions of servant leadership. In nearly 35 years of research and exploration into describing leading behaviorally, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s findings show that the frequency with which a leader is seen using The Five Practices and the LPI-measured 30 behaviors is what makes the difference in their effectiveness.

Because the 30 behaviors are designed to be outward-facing and focused on how the leader supports the team and organization, they can serve as a blueprint for what leaders need to do more frequently to become more effective as servant-leaders. Measuring frequency rather than how well or poorly a leader performs makes the LPI more actionable for true development. In addition, the fact that the LPI offers feedback from the leader’s manager, peers, direct reports, and others to provide a measure of the development of a leader also is a way to honor members of the team and provide insight into how the leader is serving them. And when used in conjunction with The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, the LPI can help a leader see how they are currently perceived and how they can grow and become a better servant-leader for their people.

Bringing It All Together
The idea that you need to serve people first has been demonstrated throughout history. And in order to help leaders understand how to put that into daily action, the framework of The Leadership Challenge provides an actionable roadmap. It provides a common language to identify the behaviors that will lead to lasting improvement in how we serve others. Putting these behaviors into a leader’s repertoire and practicing them continually will result in continual improvement and allow every leader to become a better servant-leader.

The Leadership Challenge, coupled with the servant leadership model, is a wonderful foundation for developing the people and culture of an organization. Universities across the country are creating programs that employ both leadership frameworks into their curriculum. Currently, at Gonzaga University, you can get a degree in Organizational Leadership with a certificate in Servant Leadership. In addition, Barry Posner currently sits on the editorial board of the International Journal of Servant-Leadership.

Adapted from an original article published at

Evans Kerrigan, a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge, is a founder and Managing Partner of Integris Performance Advisors, a Global Training Partner of The Leadership Challenge dedicated to increasing the existence of healthy organizations and great places to work. With over 30 years of experience working with multi-national organizations such as Cisco, Sun Blue Cross Blue Shield, BP, State of Arizona, and King County Washington, he provides consulting services in leadership, team development, continuous improvement, and strategic planning. Evans can be reached at



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