Servant-Leader: Why the Dash?

What an unassuming symbol!

We know what it means but have we ever given it any thought? Our colloquial use of the word dash represents the richness that is created when we use a hyphen in writing. Miriam Webster’s dictionary defines the hyphen as “a punctuation mark – used especially to divide or to compound words, word elements, or numbers.”

To those of us, on our servant leadership journey, the hyphen combines servant and leader, two words that most would likely deem as opposites, into a new compound word: Servant-Leader.

Our good friend and Greenleaf biographer, Don Frick, explained Mr. Greenleaf was not describing a new kind of leader. Servant is not an adjective. It is a noun. The servant-leader is both servant and leader at the same time.

The servant, without the leader, is focused on providing for others, doing good deeds and making things easier for those they serve. The servant is all about the heart and the soul. Their orientation is to relieve pain and bring solace. So many in our midst feel compelled to volunteer and meet the needs of others. We are blessed to know them and to follow their example of service.

The leader, without the servant, is focused on achieving goals, fulfilling the mission he or she has been charged with and growing their sphere of influence. The leader is about the brain and the body. Their orientation is toward action. They bring energy and we want to keep pace. We are motivated by their clarity of vision and unrelenting pursuit of a goal.

The servant-leader is more than the “and” of these two nouns. Servant-leaders humbly accept that they achieve goals when they help their team members achieve their highest aspiration and connect them to a compelling purpose. Their focus is lifting the capacity of others, with no expectation of what they get in return. It is the richest way to live and find meaning.

In June of 2020, people who share a commitment to servant leadership will meet at the International Servant-Leader Summit in Milwaukee (

With you on the Journey,

Pat Falotico


Recommended Posts