“The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.” J. Carla Nortcutt
How can you motivate your team to perform like they never have before? How can you make your business run like a well-oiled machine? How can you cut down on office drama and workplace problems and get down to the source of the issues so they can be solved? It all comes down to great leadership. But what kind of leadership can be so transformative that it can encompass all of these problems and more? The simple answer is servant leadership.
What is Servant Leadership?
Though servant leadership is a timeless concept, the term was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in a 1970 essay called The Servant as Leader, meaning the leader is first a servant to their team members. It’s a product of a natural feeling, when one wants to serve others. first. By making the conscious decision to want to lead and lead well, this type of leader is vastly different than the type of leader whose first instinct is to lead without thinking of their team members as individuals with needs.
Servant leadership methods are intrinsically motivating and can boost productivity, profitability, morale, and team member retention rates. Simply put, these practices are good for business. With that said, all leaders motivate team members, but none to the same extent as those who practice servant leadership. Servant leaders motivate team members to live with more enthusiasm for life and their work. It can help people transform a job into a calling.
The most motivated and fulfilled teams are lead in a way that gives room for personal growth. Personal enthusiasm is “The God within” and the life force of humanity. Part of being a hirable team member is possessing enough enthusiasm and energy to come to work ready to perform with a good attitude towards their tasks. That sounds amazing in practice but is a practical impossibility.
Everyone who lives amongst others will be affected by their actions. Issues at home, interrupted sleep, high stress, health problems, relationship issues, or even something as simple as getting cut off during the drive to work can affect a team member, and their affected attitude can spread throughout the workplace. This is where servant leaders come riding in to rescue their team members. Leaders need to have a toolbox full of leadership tools to help them handle these delicate situations that affect workplace productivity, happiness, and cohesiveness.
The Servant Leader’s Toolbox
Servant leaders come to work prepared to be empathetic and caring towards their team, and they have an array of motivational tools that are particularly effective for difficult situations. Servant leaders don’t rely on special enticements, such as bonuses, that only provide material rewards for high performance. They do, however, motivate their team members by helping them improve their personal growth through self-actualization. In every servant leader’s toolbox are nine tools to motivate their team members to become more mindful and self-actualized people who will perform at the top end of their abilities:
1. Open communication between leaders and team members is vital. Conversations will become intimate and leaders will discover personal problems affecting their team members’ growth. Ask questions in a leading way that helps them to open up about their feelings. Ask them for ideas about how to change their situation and find out what you can do as a leader to improve their difficult situations. When communicating, always remember to thank them for their valuable input.
2. Come to conversations prepared with deep caring, concern, and empathy. Read their body language and be receptive to what’s being said. Discover the will and intent behind these communications and listen closely to observe the mindset of team members while reigning in the desire to interject your leadership into the conversation to solve the problem. This is empathetic listening.
3. Accept team members as individual human beings with worth and value. Treat every member like they are precious and needed by the organization. At the same time, serve the organization by rooting out non-conformers and holding them accountable to conform the same high ethical and qualitative standards as everyone else on the team.
4. Expand your self-awareness, self-regulation, and internal motivation so you can come to work ready to lead with empathy. Foster your own learning about emotional intelligence and encourage your team to do the same.
5. Learn how to build strong relationships with your team. Be there for them when they need you and offer them a strong commitment to your own, as well as their, personal and professional growth. Give them the chance to develop as professionals and opportunities to train on and off-site.
6. Be a persuasive leader and learn to build a consensus. Involve team members in the decision-making process so they too have a sense of power and worth. Let them make decisions within groups with the understanding, trust, and knowledge to make good decisions for the organization and not only for their own benefit or personal gain. Lead them, while keeping in mind, you are responsible for moral and ethical development, ensuring their performance is up to organizational standards.
7. Be a person of high moral character who leads with authority. Emanating high moral fiber makes leaders worthy of respect and inspires team members’ trust and confidence. Ensure accountability to inspire superior performance standards. This is the most important aspect of establishing organizational core competencies.
8. Use the organization’s vision or mission as a motivational factor to maintain focus on ideals of excellence.
9. Maintain a people-first focus and remain committed to serving others and helping them develop their highest priority developmental needs first.
These tools can help servant leaders motivate their teams. Using these tools will foster natural leadership with trust and caring amongst team members. This is how you build a team that will sacrifice for the greater good of the organization.