Servant Leadership from an OD Lens

Everything we do is intended to help your teams grow, develop, and perform at a higher level. It is not about us, and we don’t want it to be. This is our Servant Leadership philosophy.

The following article is a contribution by AJC’s Organizational Development Consultant, Terry Smith

Robert K. Greenleaf is generally considered to have synthesized the first model of servant leadership in the late 1960s, and to have published the first authoritative writing on the subject in the early 70s.  What we now consider servant leadership today is embodied in AJC’s second core value.  As a consulting service, AJC operates as servant leaders to each other, and as providers of expertise and knowledge-based services to our clients. 

In that service, our intent is first and always to act in service to your needs.

More than simply providing service, however, our focus, as we’ll discuss later, is on delivering results for your organization.  We would not be the preferred provider of consulting services in our fields of expertise if we hadn’t first, last, and always delivered the results our clients seek out when they engage us. 

Delivering those results has built a high level of trust in our capabilities.  As most of the literature on servant leadership will describe, going all the way back to Greenleaf’s ground-breaking work in the age of bell-bottoms, trust is a cornerstone for servant leadership.  According to, creating an environment of trust is second only to encouraging diversity of thought as a fundamental principle of servant leadership. 

Organizational development, operating as a “guide on the side” to executive leadership, designs and implements methods for developing trust in organizations, and teaches leaders how to utilize those systems as foundations for effective communications, as noted above.  Trust leads to more open dialogue, and to healthy discussion, debate, and even occasional conflict, that all operate to strengthen organizational capacity.  The servant leader understands these dynamics, and embraces their positive influence on their organization.

OD practitioners must necessarily embody servant leadership; their role operates completely in service to the needs of the organization. 

In servant leadership, there are ten generally accepted characteristics that articulate how servant leaders approach their work: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.  It’s no coincidence that these characteristics are also found in the role of the OD practitioner (more on that in a future blog piece). 

At AJC, our servant leadership is straightforward; everything we do is intended to help our clients grow and improve.  The end result is never about us, and we don’t intend it to be.  Our goal is to build the kind of trusting relationship that other servant leaders recognize and embrace, and to do that by brilliantly serving their needs.