Greenleaf’s Best Test®: A Different Kind of Assessment


In 1970 a steady beacon brightened the leadership landscape with the publication of an essay titled The Servant as Leader by Robert K. Greenleaf. In this and subsequent writings, Greenleaf developed the principles of servant leadership, a congruent leadership philosophy based on a simple but profound idea:  Leaders whom we trust and want to follow achieve moral authority by being servants to followers and organizations, not by wielding titles or using coercive power. Moreover, entire institutions can act as servants. Every organization has a chart that shows who we are to each other, but servant leadership turns the chart upside down by focusing on how we are for each other.

Servant leadership, however, is not a shallow feel-good philosophy. It calls for radical personal and corporate accountability, deep inner work, and an effort to develop capacities like systems thinking, persuasion, intuition, foresight, and listening with presence.

Some servant leadership-based outcomes—like profits and retention—are not that difficult to measure (incidentally, research shows that both markers are improved in servant-led organizations), but others, like the growth of people and an organization’s impact on a more caring and just society, are more difficult to get a handle on. Luckily, Robert Greenleaf gave us a test for servant-leaders and servant-led organizations. He called it the Best Test:

Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

Greenleaf’s Best Test®

Greenleaf’s Best Test® is a road map of a real inner and outer journey, not a one-time evaluation of knowledge or inventory of future intentions. 

Greenleaf’s Best Test® is offered in both 360 or employee survey formats and is intended to be used as a part of an organization’s servant leadership journey. The 360 may also be used by individuals as a tool for personal reflection and growth. 

The assessment follows Greenleaf’s Best Test® from principle to practice by investigating four categories of inquiry.

  1.  The bulk of the questions follow Greenleaf’s model by investigating the outcomes for those who are being served. Included are items that correlate support for physical and emotional health, opportunities to gain and integrate knowledge, avenues to express heightened autonomy, and opportunities to continue the cycle of service.
  2. Another group of questions ask how well servant leadership principles are being followed in the organization.
  3. The goal of servant leadership is to create a leader-full organization where everyone can serve an appropriate leadership position, but the assessment still contains a group of questions that probe the behaviors of designated leader.
  4. Finally, the questions that make this an unusual assessment are those that ask about matters of heart, spirit, joy, and community. These human experiences give juice and meaning to work, yet are not often discussed, much less measured.

Ready to measure your impact? For more information and pricing please contact Pat Falotico at [email protected]