The primary difference between transformational leadership and servant leadership is the focus of the leader.

the specific model or style of leadership alone is insufficient to make a great leader.

Although different, both servant leadership and transformational leadership can truly be effective, dynamic and constructive leadership strategies in the modern world of business.

Firstly, it must be remembered that the purpose of business leadership, regardless of the model, is always to effectuate a productive and agreeable working environment for the purpose of achieving the company’s financial and production goals. This much all dynamic leadership models have in common.

The primary difference between transformational leadership and servant leadership is the focus of the leader. The transformational leader’s focus is directed toward the organization itself, while the servant leader’s focus is on the followers and what they need to be the best they can be. In other words, transformational leaders can be said to be company-centred, while servant leaders are people-centred.

Transformational leaders are all about encouraging and motivating everyone in the organization to focus on, believe in and truly be committed to the set goals of the company. The servant leader, however, shifts its primary emphasis to the employees rather than the company’s goals. This does not mean that that productivity is any less important the servant leadership model.

The difference lies in the means it is achieved by: by emphasising the importance of the needs, hopes and goals of employees, they in turn experience higher levels of trust in their relationships with their employers. When employees experience the work environment as a safe and secure space, it gives them the freedom to be more creative and productive.

There are 3 core differences between the transformational and servant approaches when it comes to business leadership.

Firstly, there are differing strategies when it comes to influencing employees. While both models value employees and aim to guide and inspire them to unlock their full potential, transformational leadership aims at influencing employees by increasing their commitment to the goals of the company. This is achieved primarily by improving the company’s image, brand and status and making employees feel like they’re an important part of the company’s success. The servant-leader approach seeks to influence employees by being sensitive to their needs and supporting them as people. In this model, the manager is focused on ensuring that employees are happy and content.

Secondly, the fundamental orientations of the two models differ. Transformational leadership’s focus is on the bigger picture, that is: the purpose of the company. The leader’s role is then to convey that purpose to your team in a manner that inspires commitment. Servant leadership has a more people-centred focus: the employees themselves. The leader leads by example in serving others, thereby effectuating a productive culture of service in the company as a whole.

The final difference relates to the underlying goals of the two leadership models. Transformational leaders believe that employees are the drivers of achieving the company’s goals. The focus is on collaboration and on providing your workforce with the incentive, means and confidence to achieve those goals. Servant leaders, on the other hand, focus on individual goals of the employees themselves. While company goals are still important, of course, the idea is that satisfying individual needs and goals provide the vital means to achieve overarching company goals. If employees feel stagnant or unhappy, the company will suffer as a result.   

Of course, these differences don’t necessarily mean that one business leadership strategy is better than the other. In fact, many business leaders and managers will probably find it useful to incorporate elements of both models in their approach. Aspects of both models may be helpful for you to grow in your role as a business leader with your unique talents, strengths and goals.

It must never be forgotten that the specific model or style of leadership alone is insufficient to make a great leader. You may know all the ins-and-outs of the best models of leadership and still not be able to apply that theory effectively and wisely in practice. Always remember that regardless of the model of leadership you opt for, the right attitude towards leadership as well as your natural abilities as a leader, always play a vital role in becoming the best in your role as a business leader.

About the Author

Paul russell

Paul Russell is co-founder of Luxury Academy London, a multi-national training company with offices in London, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise exclusively in the luxury industry and deliver training in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across the globe.

Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles within luxury hospitality. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.