Many leaders and aspiring leaders want to impact and leave behind a legacy for making a difference in their organization. Many would give a speech about their outstanding contributions and the impact they have had on their team. Words such as respect, visionary, transformation, and result-oriented are part of their story. Unfortunately, only a few of these legacy speeches will talk about being a servant leader. Yet, becoming a servant leader is the heart of leadership.
Robert K. Greenleaf talks of servant leadership in his 1960 essay “The Servant as a Leader.” And many people and organizations that have used this approach have reaped the benefits.
Are you a servant leader? Though this question might be hard to answer, asking it can help you become a better servant leader, ready to serve the needs of others. “Becoming a servant-leader begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first” Greenleaf’s philosophy. This is different from a leader-first person because their motive is to command respect or for material possessions.
What exactly is Servant Leadership
A servant leader focuses on the needs of others, especially those of their team members, before considering their own. You give other people the assistance and support they need to meet their personal and work goals, acknowledge team members’ perspectives and involve them in decision-making where appropriate. Servant leaders are not after being successful on their own. Instead, they build a team that will bring success.
Many people associate the phrase “servant leadership” with soft management. This is because they think a leader can’t lead and serve at the same time. However, if you understand that servanthood is about attitude, it becomes easy. A leader with a positive attitude of a servant leader will not have a heart motivated by self-interest.
Servant leaders have the courage and humility to acknowledge that they can learn from others, especially those they lead. This means servant leadership is motivated by a change of heart and how you behave. It is important to note that servant leadership is not a leadership style. Instead, it is a shift of heart and behavior from a self-serving leader to one that serves the needs of others. It has similarities with the transformational leadership style and complements democratic leadership.
How You Can Become a Servant Leader
Before learning how you can become a servant leader, you must understand ways in which you are not a servant leader. You can tell if you are serving the needs of others or your own interest by how well and often you listen to those around you. Many leaders are very committed and determined to get the organization going. They may have brilliant ideas and problem-solving skills, yet you notice a separation between them and their team members.
People without servant leadership don’t delegate to their teams, and they miss opportunities to help them grow and develop others. As a result, there will be low employees morale and lower commitment levels. Extreme executive hypocrisy is a killer of employee morale.
So, becoming a servant leader sounds straightforward, but it is easier said than done. Nevertheless, here are suggestions that will help you become a servant leader:
- Listen More
Listening is one of the core tenets of servant leadership. You will make a superb servant leader when you learn to listen intently to others and understand what they are saying. To enhance your listening skills, make sure you give people your undivided attention, especially when talking to you. Also, be keen on their body language and avoid interrupting them before they finish speaking. Finally, don’t forget to give feedback on what they ask or say.
- Acts of Kindness
One of the essential qualities of a leader is kindness. And purposeful kindness will make you a better servant leader. When was the last time you performed acts of kindness to your team members?
You will be surprised by how much value even small acts of kindness can bring to team members and the organization at large. Kindness brings about trust, warmth, transparency, and empowerment.
- Be Empathetic
One of the core characteristics of a servant leader is being empathetic. It would help if you strived to understand other people’s needs, perspectives and intentions. It starts by putting aside your viewpoint and interests temporarily and approaching situations open-mindedly.
- Introspection Can Be Valuable
As a leader, it’s easy to direct so much energy into the organization and forget to allocate some time for self-analysis. This makes it hard to recognize your weaknesses and strengths and how they impact those around you. Also, you can ask for other people’s feedback on your strengths and weaknesses to help you know where you need to improve.
- Expand your Circle
Servant leadership goes beyond how you treat your team members, continuing into how you relate and treat your suppliers, as well as other business partners. Servant leaders should care about everyone that the company touches. Take steps to make customers, vendors, and partners feel like they are part of the organization.
And Now, To The Heart Of Leadership
Traditional leadership involves exercising power by the person at the top of the pyramid, which is counterproductive. However, a servant leader knows how to better serve others.
So how do you make a shift from a leader to a servant leader? By researching and answering these questions, according to your team member’s needs, will help you find the areas for improvement that will enable you to serve others first:
- How can I help people succeed?
- What do I need to work on to serve others better?
- How can I tell I am serving others well?
- Are people comfortable working with me?
- What strengths do I have that allow me to serve others better?
- How can I add value to those around me while serving them?
- How can my servant leadership approach inspire people to serve others?
A servant leader is like a good coach who encourages those around them to be the best. Also, a servant leader can be said to be a shepherd. A shepherd understands the condition of their flock always; they know individually every sheep in the flock, tending to them accordingly and establishing trust and commitment. At Etech, servant leadership is our priority, and it has helped us elevate our team’s overall performance.