As challenges in the workplace continue to evolve alongside the needs of team members, forward-thinking leaders are always looking for new solutions. In the past, traditional leadership has been defined by a carrot-and-stick approach, “training” the people they work with to follow specific protocols that further the needs of the business. Service leadership, by contrast, puts people at the center of its ideology, seeing to the needs of team members working directly below their leader. A good service leader makes it their responsibility to ensure that all of their professional needs are met.
What Is Servant Leadership?
Coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, the term ‘servant leadership’ was used to describe a new leadership approach that upended traditional ideas about how a professional team works. Rather than conceiving of a leader as the head of an organization, he imagined a role designed to oversee the needs of the company holistically.
Inverting The Pyramid
One way to understand the difference between servant leadership and traditional leadership is through a pyramid model. A traditional leadership structure is shaped like a regular pyramid, with a narrow point at the top (the leader) and a wide base at the bottom (the rest of the team). In this case, it’s up to the team to support the needs of the leader.
Servant leadership inverts the pyramid, putting the needs of the team first. The idea is that the person in a leadership position has the most power to ensure success among the rest of the team. As long as the leaders are playing their part, the company as a whole will benefit from their guidance.
Qualities Of A Servant Leader
The truth is that anyone can practice servant leadership, as long as they bring the right attitude to the table. Here are some of the most important qualities of a servant leader.
A servant leader does more than issue commands. They should also have an ongoing dialogue with their team where new ideas and perspectives can emerge. Good communication also entails careful listening, giving people your undivided attention when they have something to say.
The cornerstone of servant leadership is understanding the needs of your team so that you can better enable them to succeed. An empathetic relationship is one where you are sensitive to the various problems others have on a day-to-day basis.
A good leader places an emphasis on emotional health and creating an environment where those around them can thrive. By providing both knowledge and resources, they can empower team members to work at their full potential.
One of the more difficult skills of good leadership is staying aware of all the factors that are affecting your workplace environment. It takes a good multi-tasker to recognize problems as they arise and give people the attention they need when they need it.
Returning to the inverted pyramid model, the role of a servant leader can best be described as a supporter. As team members face their daily challenges, it’s up to the leader to ensure they are operating at their best by giving them the tools they need.
Community – Oriented
It’s important that the servant leader has a quality relationship with their team. By strengthening bonds with the people working under their supervision, they can create an open channel of communication.
A servant leader should be committed to each team member individually, overseeing their long-term growth. This requires a good deal of insight into the person, a well-developed relationship with them, and an understanding of their needs.
While it’s always important for a leader to hold every member of the team accountable for their responsibilities, a servant leader should hold themselves responsible, first and foremost. These responsibilities will vary from team to team, but should always take everyone’s individual needs into account.
Ideas – Driven
One of the core jobs of a good leader is to craft a vision that team members can share in and feel connected to. This can come in the form of a mission statement submitted on a document and is most effective when it is shared among those that will be working towards this mission, together.
By thinking ahead and anticipating challenges that their team will face, a smart leader can use the tools at their disposal to ensure that everyone is prepared for the future. This is a skill that comes with experience, but one that is best in the hands of those who share what they know with those around them.
How Servant Leadership Can Transform Your Team
Servant leadership isn’t a quick fix, but a leadership tool that’s meant to be implemented over the long term. However, research has shown that when practiced consistently with a group of people, it is able to increase creativity and make team members feel more supported in their daily work. The key is a conscientious application of the strategy, as outlined above. Even if you can’t completely transform your workplace today, incremental changes in leadership attitudes can make a big difference in the long run.
Where Can I Learn More About Putting Servant Leadership to Use in My Workplace?
There are plenty of online resources where you can learn about Servant Leadership, including the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and an increasing number of academic studies that are shedding new light onto the benefits of this unique strategy.
If you’re looking to learn more about leadership strategies and other strategies that can help your business evolve? Get in touch with Etech for more information.