What does it mean to be a servant leader? The term was first coined by Robert Greenleaf based on his paper written in 1970 which stated “good leaders must first be good servants.” He has since written several books describing this leadership style and sharing his wisdom on leadership. Unfortunately, many of our leaders tend to be power-driven and focus primarily on the perks, pay, prestige and power they receive from their role. Their style of control including commanding, criticizing, and self-serving dominates their persona. Many devalue the work of others and focus more on what will get them ahead in their career. Ironically, self-centered people tend to be the loneliest and most joyless people. We’ve all had bosses like this at some point in our careers. Servant leaders have a very different attitude and mindset.
The focus for a servant leader is both purpose and people. In other words, they seek a greater purpose in their work than themselves and look at the big picture. Instead of being self-driven, servant leaders are others-driven. They help people find their strengths, purpose, and position them accordingly. Servant leaders look to build others up so that they can fulfill their goals and be passionate about working on a team that values its members. How do you become a servant leader?
Intensely listen to your employees, treat them with respect, trust and delegate, and reward them for good work. Servant leaders accept feedback from their staff and seek to learn and grow from other’s constructive criticism. They recognize that people are the greatest asset to any organization which is why they get to know their people. Servant leaders are patient, humble, authentic, and accountable which enables them to build greater connection with their team. They seek to add value to others not just themselves and give credit more often than taking credit. Often servant leaders have high emotional intelligence which enables them to be more compassionate, sensitive, and understanding when people are struggling and can effectively guide them back to the right path. Remember that leadership is a verb and requires action. Lead by example both in words and actions and others will be more inclined to follow.