Servant leadership is a leadership style that puts serving others above all other priorities. Rather than managing for results, a servant leader focuses on creating an environment in which their team can thrive and get their highest-impact work done.
The term “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, who defined it as “a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.”
Servant leaders are not motivated by power, prestige, or personal gain. They are driven by a genuine desire to help others grow and succeed. They believe that by empowering their team members, they can achieve more together than they could alone.
Characteristics of servant leaders
Servant leaders put the needs of others before their own. They seek to understand what their team members want and need, and then provide them with the resources, support, and guidance they require. They also collaborate with others to find win-win solutions that benefit everyone involved.
Servant leaders are committed to the personal and professional development of their team members. They provide them with opportunities to learn new skills, take on new challenges, and advance their careers. They also encourage them to pursue their passions and interests and celebrate their achievements.
Servant leaders are generous with their wisdom and expertise. They do not hoard information or use it as a source of power. Instead, they share it freely with their team members and help them acquire new knowledge and insights. They also seek feedback and learn from others to improve themselves.
Servant leaders act with integrity and honesty. They keep their promises and take responsibility for their actions. They also respect their team members and treat them with dignity and fairness. They create a culture of trust where people feel safe to express their opinions, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation.
Servant leaders do not micromanage or control their team members. They delegate tasks and authority to them and give them autonomy to make decisions and solve problems. They also support them when they face difficulties or make mistakes. They inspire them to take ownership of their work and unleash their full potential.
Some of the advantages of servant leadership are:
Servant leaders create a positive and supportive work environment where team members feel valued, appreciated, and motivated. They foster a sense of belonging and purpose among their team members and make them feel part of something bigger than themselves. This leads to higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Servant leaders enable their team members to do their best work by providing them with the tools, resources, and feedback they need. They also challenge them to stretch themselves and achieve higher standards of excellence. This leads to improved productivity, quality, and innovation.
Servant leaders promote a culture of cooperation and teamwork among their team members. They encourage them to share ideas, information, and perspectives with each other and work together towards a common goal. This leads to enhanced collaboration, communication, and creativity.
Servant leaders value diversity and inclusion in their teams and organizations. They recognize the strengths and contributions of each team member regardless of their background, identity, or preferences. They also create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and heard. This leads to greater diversity of thought, experience, and perspective.
Servant leadership is not easy or simple. It requires a lot of self-awareness, humility, empathy, and courage. It also requires a lot of patience, persistence, and practice.
However, servant leadership is worth the effort. It can transform your team and organization into a more effective, efficient, and enjoyable place to work.
If you want to become a servant leader or improve your servant leadership skills, here are some tips you can follow:
- Listen actively: Listen attentively to what your team members say and do not say. Ask open-ended questions to clarify your understanding and show your interest. Do not interrupt or judge them while they are speaking.
- Serve humbly: Serve your team members without expecting anything in return. Do not seek recognition or praise for your service. Do not use your service as a way to manipulate or influence others.
- Learn continuously: Learn from your own experiences as well as from others’. Seek feedback from your team members and other stakeholders on how you can improve your leadership style. Read books, articles, blogs, podcasts, or videos on servant leadership and related topics.
- Lead by example: Lead by doing, not by telling. Demonstrate the behaviors and values you want to see in your team members. Be consistent and transparent in your actions and decisions. Admit your mistakes and apologize when you are wrong.
- Empower generously: Empower your team members to take charge of their work and make their own choices. Provide them with clear expectations, goals, and guidelines, but do not dictate how they should do their work. Trust them to do their work well and support them when they need help.
Servant leadership is a powerful and rewarding way to lead others. By serving first and leading second, you can make a positive difference in the lives of your team members, your organization, and your world.
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