If you were to Google ‘servant leadership,’ you would come across a list of traits that included some or all of the following; listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, building community, and nurturing. While each of these components are valuable, the sheer number of them convolutes a fairly straight forward ideology. For the purpose of our discussion today, let’s break it down a little further.
Servant leadership discusses the benefits of operating as a member of the team as opposed to its conductor. All of the traits listed in the open lend themselves to this way of thinking, and each can be attributed to one of three buckets:
When most people think of a leader, they typically envision someone with the ability to direct, manage, and task their subordinates with unquestioned authority. If this was your first thought, challenge yourself to dig deeper. The most successful motivators are not those who lead with an iron fist, demand their orders be followed, or expect perfection. Instead, the most effective leaders find a way to connect with their team and earn their loyalty and diligence. A large portion of that comes from absorbing feedback and fielding complaints or questions, i.e. ‘getting.’ Before a leader can truly task a team to do anything, they have to inspire their team to fight for a common purpose.
Servant leadership urges one to listen and remain aware. Participating in these passive activities adds credibility and aids the growth of charisma for managers. Incorporating these practices is not immediately rewarding, but the eventual benefits are easily worth the delayed gratification.
Once a leader understands how to sufficiently get what they need to from their team, they can begin to give.
“Giving,” does not mean barking orders or providing instruction. Giving means aligning yourself meaningfully with your team and fostering a harmonious relationship. This is reinforced by truly devoting your time and effort to the team. If the head of a unit is willing to empathize and nurture, the team will be able to function on greater levels.
Also sitting below the “giving” umbrella, is persuasion. This should not be seen as a negotiation, or even an opportunity to convince your team of something. Persuasion should be viewed as another chance to unite everyone together so that they may drive toward a shared goal. As a leader, it is not your ultimate duty to force your team to a directive, but instead, to create a community of members that wish to achieve success of their own accord.
Building and improving a team is comparable to developing anything else. Only when a solid foundation of parts that work synergistically are set in place, can you begin to expand. In regards to leadership, once a framework of healthy giving and getting has been established, true progress can begin to be realized. This progress can be enhanced through; conceptualization, foresight, and community building.
A leader should be a guiding compass for their followers, providing overarching views of success. Conceptualizing how to achieve goals, and being able to avoid obstacles before they take root, are two of a leaders’ most impactful duties. While these actions offer a small benefit in the short term, they pay immense dividends over time. Operating with such clear investment and devotion to the team helps to build a communal sense of achievement and strengthens the bond between leader and subordinate.
Servant leadership is not groundbreaking or unique. It combines the techniques of several ideologies that have existed in isolation and wraps them into one. In its simplest form, this a strategy to get the most out of employees. In its most complex; a unifying force that enriches relationships and strengthens teams. By leading the way as a part of the team instead of at the helm, servant leadership can help you get more, give better, and grow stronger.
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