Servant Leadership

One of the corporations I worked with in the 2000’s decided they wanted to transform all their leaders into Servant Leaders. It wasn’t a new concept, as servant leadership had been around since the 1970’s. But the new CEO had just “read a book” and decided it was the answer to our struggling company. He told the leadership team to prioritize the well-being of the team members and “serve” the people. He believed this was the answer we needed to turn around the company.

The servant leadership philosophy is still around today. Servant leadership is a style of leadership that prioritizes the growth and well-being of others before our own personal needs or success. The team members come first. Their needs are the priority, not the leader’s and not the company’s.

The servant leadership approach promotes innovation, helps the staff develop their skills, and therefore encourages the team to perform at a higher level. It is a leadership style that is designed to make people feel like they matter.  Leaders are to live by a “people first” mindset. Team members must feel personally and professionally fulfilled to be their most productive. And with a supported, productive team, comes trust and collaboration.

In theory it was a good concept, but in my case the new CEO hadn’t read the entire book. He put 100% of the implementation and responsibility on the leaders, and none on the organization. For servant leadership to be effective, an organization needs to focus on creating a culture of sustainable success. They need to create an atmosphere and the conditions (processes, procedures, etc.) that not only allow for success but allow the leaders to feel supported.  The servant leadership philosophy, which is the goal of the leader is to serve, must begin at the top of the organization. The leaders who are serving their teams need to feel the commitment from the organization so they can turn around and provide that to their people.

I know that now, I didn’t know that then. In short, I burnt myself out putting myself last and my people first. They needed something, I was there. I fought hard to protect them. To support them. To develop them. Some of my team took advantage of my service philosophy. They wanted more, and more, and more. I had trained them to think they deserved the world – and some of them truly expected the world. They got angry if I couldn’t give them what they thought they deserved. Also, every decision seemed like a mountain to climb. Everyone had an opinion and was I serving them correctly if I didn’t listen and implement their ideas? Further, as I mentioned, the business culture didn’t foster a service mentality. Instead, it was a “do it now” or “who cares make it happen” attitude. I was in constant conflict and so very tired.

Because of my experience, I haven’t been a huge fan of the servant leadership concept. But when you find the right balance between serving others and asserting authority, servant leadership can transform your team experiences.

Servant Leadership can:

  • Increase your company’s morale.
  • Increase team collaboration.
  • Increase employee engagement.
  • Inspire vision.
  • Place ethics before profit.
  • Balance focus with flexibility.

Now that I have escaped corporate and created my own company, I naturally embrace the concepts of servant leadership. I challenge you to look at your business, your staff, and your client interactions and see how the fundamentals of servant leadership can help elevate your business practices.

Do you:

  • Consider your client’s, employees, or stakeholder’s needs before your own.
    • It isn’t about the paycheck for you, (although that is necessary to keep the lights on!). Instead, it is about truly serving, or helping people.
  • Ask for feedback regularly.
    • This can help you elevate your leadership skills, your business practices, and fosters a growth mindset.
  • Lead from the heart.
    • Care for your fellow humans and be open to other’s opinions, needs, and outlook.
  • Focus on elevating others before your own personal success.

It has been said that a servant leader is an excellent listener, has empathy, is able to conceptualize solutions, and can build a community. I think that sounds like the type of leader we would all like to be.

Want to know more about leadership styles and how to elevate yours. I offer training, coaching, and consulting to help You elevate your leadership. Reach out to me today.