Servant Leadership

In A Recreational Therapy Setting

What kind of leader motivates you? Think back through history and then more personally, over your career, college days or childhood. Who was that person? Were they someone that inspired you to be your best and made real lasting change? Or were they a task master and micromanager who always got the job done at any cost? There are many different types of leadership. No one style fits every situation or every team.

Traditionally in leadership, employees serve “the boss” and the organization. Servant leadership flips the script and proposes that the best way to build an organization or a department is to invest in the employees. When you build up employees, empower them, they are more satisfied and more productive. In today’s society, the workforce is more keen to seek out environments that help them thrive and offer personal satisfaction and growth.

The servant leadership philosophy originated by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 includes a set of behaviors and practices that place the primary emphasis on the well-being of those being served. Individuals such as Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Mother Teresa could be described as servant leaders.

10 Characteristics of Servant Leadership:
Commitment to the Growth of Others
Building Communities

As recreation therapists we are used to serving clients. Assessing their strengths and helping them reach their goals regardless of the challenges they face. This same approach can and should be applied to those we lead as RT supervisors. We must continue to develop our own leadership styles to meet the needs not only of our organization and clients, but also the needs of our employees and student interns.

The first step is to assess your own leadership skills and look at your current strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This is no easy task as it requires honesty with yourself and possibly seeking feedback from others. There are many resources online to help you learn about leadership styles and assess which ones match your skills and goals.

What’s Your Leadership Style? – Leadership Training From
4 Types of leadership: Which one fits you? Take this QUIZ | UMass Global

Change is never easy. It takes time and commitment. First to educate yourself and then to adopt new behaviors and leadership techniques. Just like beginning any new endeavor we must believe that it will work and dedicate ourselves to trying and even failing at it. Over time and with consistency it will work, change will happen. It’s the small things done with regularly that make change. Think of other things in your life that we often look to improve on such as our health. One day of eating better and exercising won’t create a healthier you. It takes repetition of little changes every day to make a big change occur. Working on becoming a better leader takes the same work and time.

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Take steps today to become the leader you want to become.

About Servant Leadership

What is Servant Leadership? – Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership
What Is Servant Leadership and How to Apply It (
Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Caring Leaders (
7 Values of Servant Leadership | PLNU (

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