Servant Leaders: Why Does This Leadership Style Work?

Servant leaders put a team first, and themselves second. A servant leader describes an approach in which the aspiration to lead is driven by a desire to serve others.

What Is A Servant Leader?

By being a servant leader, you;

  • Focus on the well-being and growth of your people
  • See situations from other’s perspectives
  • Make decisions with the team’s best interests in mind
  • Ensure that everyone has the resources and knowledge they need to meet their objectives
  • Are invested in others’ professional and personal development to allow others to work at the best of their ability

While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. 

Servant leadership moves us to be better leaders through six key principles;

  1. Listen well. To truly address the opportunities and challenges before you, take time to hear instead of being heard.
  2. Value people. Focus on others and create space for direct reports and colleagues to flourish.
  3. Call it like it is. Communicate the current realities as well as the future direction of the organization you lead. Remember that servant leadership is about focusing on other people’s needs – not their feelings.
  4. Ask powerful questions. Raise questions that push you and your team to new ways of overcoming obstacles and identifying breakthroughs.
  5. Empower people. Encourage your team to tackle challenges and opportunities in their unique way.
  6. Be real. Humbly allow your team to see you when you are weak and need their help.

In 1970, Robert Greenleaf wrote an essay on this concept titled, Servant as a Leader and described some of the characteristics and activities of servant-leaders – providing examples that show how individual efforts, inspired by a vision and a servant ethic, can make a substantial difference in the quality of society. 

The Impact of a Bad Leader on an Organisation

You can become a servant leader by working on these 10 characteristics:

  1. Listening.
  2. Empathy.
  3. Healing.
  4. Awareness.
  5. Persuasion.
  6. Conceptualization.
  7. Foresight.
  8. Stewardship.
  9. Commitment to the growth of people.
  10. Building community.

Why Does This Leadership Style Work?

A servant leader leads through the encouragement of others. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders.

Servant leadership is rather straightforward. A servant leader feels responsible for helping people learn and grow. They see their responsibility as a leader to increase the confidence, capability, ownership, autonomy, and responsibility of their people. 

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