As we now know, the management style that many of us refer to as “traditional” was never something that subordinates have particularly enjoyed. And in 1970 when Robert K. Greenleaf published his famous essay, “The Servant as Leader”, it was a rather radical protest against the current norm. Hence, “Servant Leadership” encapsulated everything that traditional management was not.
However, some 50 years and a few “new norms” later, supported by the evolution of motivational theories and the rise of knowledge-intensive jobs, “Servant Leadership” crystallized into a modern management philosophy adopted by many leading organizations. To the point that a “leader” and a “servant leader” are now used interchangeably by many.
So what is a servant leader? It is a leader that acts as a servant first, and a leader second, putting the needs of the team before their own. The mindset behind servant leadership is one of humility, selflessness, and helping others to thrive. It is about creating a positive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and supported. This approach has become increasingly popular in the modern corporate setting as companies look for ways to improve employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.
A common misconception is that Servant Leaders take the back seat while the team does all the work. Contrary to that belief, Servant Leaders are the heart of the team. As leaders they drive vision and strategy, but unlike the traditional command and control managers, they actively engage their team into every step in achieving the common goals from ideation to delivery.
Servant leaders focus on building trust and fostering a culture of collaboration, open communication, and continuous improvement. They empower their team to take ownership of their work and make decisions, while providing guidance and support to help them realize their full potential. They don’t tell their team how to do their work. Instead, they encourage team to embrace a culture of experiments, learn from their mistakes, and express creativity.
In sum, a great Servant leader is one whose goal it is to build a self-organizing team. Servant Leadership is a mindset, not a technique. Follow these tips below to become an effective servant leader and build a high-performing team that is dedicated to achieving success together.
10 Tips for Being a Great Servant Leader:
- Create a vision and mission statement to provide a sense of direction for your team;
- Listen to your teams’ ideas, concerns, and feedback before speaking your mind;
- Show empathy, feel for your people and don’t turn a blind eye toward their problems and issues;
- Empower your team, give them the resources and support they need;
- Respect team’s opinions and expertise, let creativity flow, challenge, but never criticize their decisions;
- Be honest, communicate openly and honestly with your employees, foster a culture of trust;
- Be a shield, protect your team from any negative impact;
- Be a coach, provide guidance and support to help your employees grow and develop;
- Lead by example, become the embodiment of the principles you manifest;
- Lead with integrity, do what is right, not what is easy.