Over the past decade or so, I've heard a new term for leaders come into common usage: servant leader. The idea of servant leadership is that the typical hierarchy where employees are supposed to serve their bosses is turned upside down. Instead, leaders serve their people.

In his book, The Culture Engine, organizational consultant S. Chris Edmonds says that servant leadership is the foundation for leading others effectively. According to Edmonds, "I define servant leadership as a person's dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community. Anyone can serve--and lead--from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community."

All servant leaders share two fundamental beliefs about the people they lead, and engage in five practices that put these beliefs into action.

Servant leaders believe that...

1. Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect

2. People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves

According to Edmonds, the five practices of servant leaders include the following...

3. Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others

Servant leaders educate the members of their team through their words and actions, and they encourage their people to set aside self-serving behaviors in favor of serving others.

4. Listen intently and observe closely

Servant leaders really listen to their people, and they actively solicit their participation, their ideas, and their feedback. In time, they get to know the worldview of each one of their employees, and they tailor their leadership approach accordingly.

5. Act as selfless mentors

Servant leaders know that by helping to guide the people who work for them, they will help their employees learn vital skills that will both improve their performance, and improve them as people.

6. Demonstrate persistence

Servant leaders realize that one or two conversations may not have the desired change in an employee's assumptions or mindset. So they are tenacious and invest whatever time it takes to educate and inspire servant leadership practices in the members of their team.

7. Lovingly hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments

Servant leaders know that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes--including themselves. With that in mind, they push for high standards of performance, service quality, and alignment of values throughout the team, and they hold themselves and their people accountable for their performance.