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What is servant leadership and how do organisations benefit?

May 10, 2021
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servant leadership

Servant leaders are revolutionising the art of leadership and the running of organisations.  So what is servant leadership and how can organisations benefit?

The role of a leader has been traditionally associated with authority, assertiveness and power.  A leader is often perceived as someone who hands down tasks, assigns roles and chastises failure.  This perception is not wrong.  Many leaders possess authoritarian personalities and tell other employees what to do and how to do it.  A workplace may become silent, or staff experience a sense of unease at the prospect of a meeting with the head, for example.

Servant leadership turns this form of outdated thinking on its head.


What Is Servant Leadership?

The term 'servant leadership' is not new; it was coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf. In his famous essay, 'The Servant as the Leader', the underlying concept is that the leader serves the people they lead. This is radically different from the traditional leader who wants to lead through power and control over others.

Servant-first and leader-first are two extremes of a continuum where most people fall somewhere in between.  An individual who practices servant leadership focuses on the growth and well-being of their people.  In this case, the employees are at the top of the workplace hierarchy, and the leader willingly occupies the bottom.

What do Servant-Leadership qualities look like?

The serve-first mindset motivates servant-leaders to empower their employees instead of brandishing a do-it-or-else approach.  Their primary purpose is not to enforce power, but to unleash the teams creativity and potential.  By doing so, servant-leaders produce positive, lasting results in terms of employee morale, engagement, and retention.  Positive company culture is born, and all these factors ensure that productivity hits an all-time high.  At the same time, the bottom line gets boosted on its own, without negative tactics, aggression or stressful ultimatums.

Good leadership qualities that reinforce this typically result in performance growth that only gets better.  Most traditional business leaders are positional managers; they oversee transactions that are often conceived and executed by their staff.  Such leaders derive their authority solely from the fact they are the bosses.

But servant leadership moves beyond the traditional model and does not depend on a sense of entitlement.  Servant-leaders support and encourage staff.   Furthermore, they seek to align the team’s purpose with the company values and mission.

Driven and motivated staff perform at high levels, feel appreciated, and continue to develop as future leaders.  Moreover, observation and emulation train them to adopt the same leadership behaviours, in turn.  So in addition to producing exceptional results, servant-leadership sets a positive cycle that self-perpetuates.   In this way, servant leadership benefits the organisation.

Servant Leadership Characteristics

We have seen that the concept of servant-leadership involves letting your ambitions and needs to take a backseat and moving away from autocratic leadership models.   But a good servant leader knows when to find strength in the guidance and feedback from their team.

It’s not necessary to become best friends with your employees in order to empower them in the right way.  You just need to connect and develop your staff in a safe and supportive way.


So how do you practice effective servant leadership skills?

1. Start with on-boarding

Once new employees have been welcomed and familiarised with their duties, the servant-leader connects with the individual one-on-one.   Next, ask them about first-impressions and their opinions.   This will introduce them to the concept of serving others right at the beginning.

2. Listen attentively

Pay attention to your team and listen to what they're saying.  Seek their feedback proactively and ask for their ideas and opinions.  By observing and listening carefully, you become aware of their strengths and weakness and can adapt your leadership approach to serving them better.

Influential leaders spend at least 25% of their time developing future leaders.

3. Give credit where it is due

Did someone come forward with a fabulous idea to save money or time?   If so, give them their due by praising them (if possible, in front of their peers).   Also, refrain from hogging the limelight and stealing credit.

4. Make meetings more collaborative

Do you find yourself talking the most during meetings? If so, control your urge to interupt.  Encourage every member to offer their ideas.

To Learn more about running effective meetings, see our related article here] .

5. Accept feedback gracefully

Conduct anonymous surveys and process negative feedback calmly.   This grows an appreciative culture where employees feel empowered to voice their opinions.  Complaints are reviewed without the fear of reprisals.


Servant leadership and how organisations benefit

By practising servant-leadership and serving your team, you can build a better and happier business with a boosted bottom line.   As a result, Servant-leadership is a winning formula that challenges traditional autocratic leadership styles and nurtures a more democratic workplace environment.  Now that is leading artfully!


Recommended reading:
The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle - J C Hunter

Servant Leadership Roadmap - C H Bramlett

The Servant - JC Hunter


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This website definitely has all of the information and facts I wanted concerning this subject and
didn’t know who to ask.

February 16, 2021