Over the last few years, I’ve had numerous conversations about the term ‘servant’ leadership.
As it’s a phrase that is growing in use, I thought it would be a good topic of conversation for my next blog. I’ll cover the following areas to give you an insight into what this means for you as a leader;
- What does it mean?
- What do they believe?
- What do they focus on?
What Does Servant Leadership Mean?
If we think about a typical organisation, the usual principle is that ‘employees’serve those higher up the hierarchy. Servant leadership turns this concept on it’s head; meaning a leader serves their team members individually and collectively; a different approach?
Personally, I like Chris Edmonds definition from his book The Culture Engine. He describes servant leadership as “a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.” Interestingly, research shows servant leaders are more productive and more highly regarded by employees.
If we are flipping familiar ideas on their head with this concept, how does the way a servant leader thinks differ from other leaders?
How Does A Servant Leader Think?
There are two beliefs that servant leaders hold that influence how they think which are:
- Every person has value and deserves respect, trust and to be treated with civility.
- People can accomplish more than they believe they can when they are inspired by a purpose that is bigger and beyond themselves.
Honestly, I don’t think any of us would disagree with what’s above yet there may be times when we don’t always practice being respectful, or civil.
What Do I Focus On If I Want To Practice Servant Leadership?
Be a role model and encourage others to serve
A servant leader walks their talk. They set aside any self-serving behaviours and focus on serving their team. In doing so, they encourage their team to do the same.
Prioritise Employee Wellbeing
Demonstrate that you genuinely care about the well-being of your employees. Use your awareness to tune into when individuals may be feeling overwhelmed, stretched or just a cog in a wheel. Have wellbeing policies and programmes in place and encourage a balanced approach to work and life.
Empathy: Listen intently and understand
Servant leaders make it essential to listen and understand their people. They actively seek their ideas and feedback. They learn what’s important to each person at a professional and personal level. What makes them standout, however, is they use this information and then adapt their leadership style.
Personal and professional development of each team member is a priority for servant leaders. To encourage growth, these leaders will focus on creating a culture where individuals are encouraged to make mistakes and to learn from them. When the right environment is created, ordinary people will do extraordinary things.
Servant leaders understand that everyone is different and while one team member may embrace change and new ways of working, others will take time. They appreciate that some individuals will need time and several conversations probably over a coffee before they are open to change. Whether it’s tenacity or time that’s required, a servant leader will do whatever it takes for an individual.
Hold themselves and others to account
No one is perfect, we all make mistakes yet this doesn’t stop a servant leader from setting high standards for themselves and their team and holding each and themselves to account.
Servant leadership is one leadership philosophy. You may be thinking that you are already ‘doing’ aspects of what a servant leader is known for.
A question for you;are there areas that you recognise that you can improve on, and if so what are they?
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Until next time