At 15-years-old, Malala Yousafzai (aka just Malala) was shot by a Taliban gunman for going to school.

After surviving an assassination attempt, the Pakistani activist turned this tragedy into a movement. She's devoted her life to fight for female education across the map earning her spot among the many historic, servant leaders.

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What qualities does a servant leader possess?

This style of leadership was born on the philosophy of serving the community. A servant leader acts selflessly and makes others their top priority. Listed are some skills that illustrate an impactful servant leader:

Servant leadership primarily focuses on building on your soft skills. As Malala embodies many of the skills of a servant leader, let's explore how the activist finds ways to serve global communities.

How Malala practices servant leadership

Servant leadership was first coined by researcher Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, "The Servant as a Leader." Like many other leaders, Malala has reformed and adopted her own version of servant leadership.

Voicing injustices. Before Malala was attacked, the young activist was raising awareness surrounding the oppression of women in children under the Taliban rule.

As a servant leader, Malala shares with Oprah why she risked her life to help other women (Courtesy of OWN)

Spending time with others. A leader that is for the people, it’s vital to spend time with the community. As an activist, Malala travels around listening to a variety of people, immersing herself into community, and creating solutions to resolve issues.

In a series of tweets, Malala talks about devoting time to Kashmir citizens (Courtesy of Malala’s Twitter)

Setting goals. Part of setting goals as a servant leader, is setting ones that reflect the well-being of others. During a BBC interview, Malala stated her “goal is to make sure every child, a girl and a boy, they get the opportunity to go to school.”

Giving back to communities. Malala strives to bring her goals to the light. On her 18th birthday, the educational activist opened up a secondary school in Lebanon for Syrian refugee girls.

Being empathetic. What makes Malala a compassionate leader, is her ability to translate her own experiences and connect with global citizens facing other adversities.

The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.

– Robert Greenleaf, founder of servant leadership movement

Why servant leadership is important

Like Greenleaf said, the fundamental belief of a servant leader is to serve others. There is good that comes out in helping others. Not only are they achieving their goals, but you are too.

Increase in productivity. Professionals can tell if they’re in the true presence of a leader who cares for the community and the mission. In the case of Malala, her passion to invest in education for girls helped raise over $19 million.

Trust is established. An effective servant leader keeps their community in the loop with major and minor decisions. Creating this foundation of loyalty shows peers that they are valued every step of the way.

Creation of a cohesive culture. A servant leader who practices all those traits (go peek at the list above), produces valued and committed team members. A cohesive culture will make the journey to the goal much more enjoyable.

Parting thoughts

Leaders come in all shapes and forms. Servant leadership is one of many practices. What's important is you find a style that best aligns with your skills. If that means reforming, restructuring, remodeling that idea, then do it! At Matter, we want you to be the best leader you can!

Share your thoughts, suggestions, or stories to us @MatterApp or reach out via email at dixie[at]matterapp.com. Go forth and become the best servant leader you can, but be sure to come back and tell us about it!


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Cover Photo Courtesy of World Economic Forum