The Servant Leadership Trap

Chris Norris
1 min readJul 28, 2022

While I will always bucket myself as someone who embraces servant leadership, I often see people neglect the ‘leadership’ part.

This article does a great job of summarizing the pitfalls, and gives an excellent re-framing of servant leadership that I think is the sweet spot for us servant leaders.

“You start with a servant’s heart. You don’t think less of yourself; you just think of yourself less. You know that strength doesn’t make you capable of rule, it makes you capable of service.

But service doesn’t mean subservience.

While power flows through you in servitude, you don’t deny your power, knowing when it must flow from you. You lead with others in mind, but make no mistake, you serve and you lead — you don’t lose your authoritative leadership qualities along the way.

You know when it’s time to command and direct, stepping up to lead from the front, versus stepping back and staying in the shadows to support. And you recognize when your chain of command wants to see this shift.

You direct energy and focus in every direction, up, down, and across the organization, not just downward — and yes, while not forgetting to serve yourself as well.

You recognize at times you must first serve what the business needs, not what the people want. You know that what’s needed for the business and/or employees doesn’t always feel good.

But despite the tension, you proceed with deliberateness, and always with empathy.

You think like an engineer, feel like an artist.”



Chris Norris

Engineering leader for startups — 4 exits and counting. Fascinated with startups, software, and the people around them. Founder at