Leadership is a hot topic in the business world. Many keynote speakers and books focus on helping leaders learn how to be the best they can be for their teams. My belief is that leaders like myself can learn the most about ourselves and others when we set out to be more servant-like rather than by using our position and/or titles to ‘get our own way.’
Servant leadership is both a leadership philosophy and a set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people to develop and perform as highly as possible.
Robert Greenleaf, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement, explains: Leaders whom we trust, and want to follow, achieve moral authority by being servants to followers and organizations.
Below are five things servant leaders do well.
Listening. Leaders have traditionally been valued for their communication and decision-making skills. While these are also important skills for the servant-leader, they need to be reinforced by a deep commitment to listening intently to others. The servant-leader seeks to understand first versus being understood. They seek to listen receptively to what is being said. Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, is essential to the growth of the servant-leader.
Empathy. The servant-leader strives to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and recognized for their special and unique spirits. Most don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
Healing. One of the great strengths of servant-leadership is the potential for healing one’s self and others. Many people have broken spirits and have suffered from a variety of emotional hurts. Although this is part of being human, servant-leaders recognize that they also have an opportunity to “help make whole” those with whom they come in contact.
Awareness. General awareness, and especially self-awareness, strengthens the servant-leader. Awareness also aids in understanding issues involving ethics and values. It lends itself to being able to view most situations from a more integrated, holistic position.
Persuasion. Another characteristic of servant-leaders is a primary reliance on persuasion rather than positional authority in making decisions within an organization. The servant-leader seeks to convince others rather than coerce compliance. This particular element offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and that of servant-leadership. The servant-leader is effective at building consensus within groups.
Servant leadership takes commitment to put others first, and a servant-leader understands that the success of an organization is not purely self-driven, but based significantly on the efforts of the entire team.
Wherever you lead in your life, please remember that the person you are being is more important than your job title.