In the last newsletter I discussed the great resignation and its impact.  I want to take it further and look at the affect of leadership.  I have often heard comments about millennials leaving jobs where they do not feel valued or have  meaningful work; they are no longer alone those feelings are pervasive.  How do we fix it?

It starts with the tone set by the leadership!!!

An old term is returning, servant leadership. it refocuses the approach to leading and the impact on the organization. I wrote about it August 2020 and described Ken Blanchard’s methods. If you want to read it, it’s on the website along with numerous other blogs

Max Dupree CEO of Herman Miller is quoted as saying the first Responsibility of a Leader is to Define Reality. The last is to say Thank You. In between, the leader is a Servant . But what does that mean? Traditional leadership is focused on helping an organization thrive, servant leaders put the needs of their employees first. They focus on developing individuals who perform their best

Here are four steps to develop into a better servant leader.
  • Encourage diversity of thought.
  • Create a culture of trust.
  • Have an unselfish mindset.
  • Foster leadership in others.

Nice words but how does it work?

What is servant leadership? Servant leadership works at two levels. It’s an artful balance of top-down direction and bottom-up empowerment. Even though the servant leader is focused on the needs of their employees, they still lead in critical ways.

The aspect of top-down direction involves setting the strategic vision for the company. Next, it involves communicating that down to the team level. This is done by providing priorities, expectations, and limitations. Leaders also provide clarity on overall direction and company values.

The servant leader provides a framework within which their team can flourish. This is in contrast to prescribing them specific directions on each of their duties. In the frame set by those leadership decisions, the servant leader places themselves in service to their people. They put a focus on setting the employees up to succeed at achieving the vision.

This is where the bottom-up empowerment aspect comes into play.

The leader motivates and inspires by encouraging ownership and extending supported trust. They’ll also make sure that the team has the required resources, budget, skills, and attention to make an impact.

In servant leadership, employees are empowered. But the leader doesn’t just disappear. Rather, the servant leader understands how much and what type of support to give when facilitating growth. They know when to get involved and when to let their team steer the ship. More importantly, they know when to let their employees fail if there is a powerful lesson they could learn.

Servant leadership isn’t some new-age, modern idea. Far from it. The term “servant leader” was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in the essay “The Servant as Leader.” Other leadership experts have tried to define and modernize the concept in the context of today’s organizations.

There’s a resurgence of attention towards servant leadership. This is because leaders are starting to focus intently on building engagement among other areas, in the hope of reducing turnover facilitating hiring and improving performance on all levels. Rapid changes due to the pandemic and the great resignation  have further highlighted the need for leaders to support and empower an innovative, adaptable workforce.

Through servant leadership inclusive cultures are created where everyone has a sense of belonging, can be authentic and where values of the individual and organization are aligned.

In servant leadership the team and the employees are also the customers

Robert K. Greenleaf established 10 principles of servant leadership. The former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, Larry C. Spears, breaks down these 10 principles as follows.

  1. Listening: it’s important to fully listen to the members of your team without interrupting.
  2. Empathy: it’s important to get to know your team so that you can use empathetic leadership to help them grow.
  3. Healing: members of your team may have trauma from previous toxic work experiences. Help others to create a healthy work-life balance to give them the space to heal.
  4. Self-awareness: a servant leader must also recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. This is to understand how they fit within the overall team.
  5. Persuasion: servant leaders can use persuasion and influence instead of just power to get team members to be on the same page.
  6. Conceptualization: servant leaders need to be able to use big-picture thinking. With this, they can conceptualize plans for their team and their organization.
  7. Foresight: it’s important to use what you and your team learn to improve in the future.
  8. Stewardship: lead by example so that your team can do what you do, not just do what you say.
  9. Commitment to the growth of people: you need to allocate time and resources to help people and teams grow. Tools like organizational training,  development programs, and growth and transformation coaching can help.
  10. Building community: servant leadership requires building relationships between colleagues. As a result, team members learn to trust each other and become more productive.

The servant leadership style can amp up an employee’s motivation and courage to be more creative and innovative. This is because leaders give ownership and some control to employees. Doing this can:

  • Strengthen the corporate culture
  • Decrease voluntary turnover
  • Draw out more engagement and commitment from employees

On the other hand, getting it right takes time, energy, and skill.

Getting to really know people, their motivations, and areas of growth takes time. It takes time to translate a vision into clear objectives and priorities. It also takes time to communicate this vision clearly to the team. The results don’t happen overnight. It’s not easy.

Pros of servant leadership

    1. The characteristics of success are well-defined
    2. Builds deeper, trust-based relationships
    3. Encourages greater ownership and responsibility
    4. Encourages innovation, curiosity, and creativity
    5. Develops a people-focused culture
    6. Delivers significant positive impact on company performance
    7. A strong method for ensuring decisions are made in the best interests of the company
    8. By serving the employees of a company, you are serving the customer
    9. A high level of internal staff growth
    10. Develops future leaders
    11. Boosts morale across teams
    12. Leaders earn respect from team members
    13. Employees feel more valued and appreciated in the workplace
    14. Improves pride of work

Cons of servant leadership

    1. The concept can be difficult to communicate
    2. Can be more time-consuming for leaders
    3. Can be difficult to attain — it’s a constant journey rather than an end goal
    4. Requires a high level of authenticity that can be difficult to achieve
    5. Retraining existing leaders as servant leaders can be tough and time-consuming
    6. Some may perceive servant leaders as weak or ineffective
    7. The formal authority of the leader may be diminished
    8. Team members are expected to make a decision, but they might not have a strong understanding of the big picture
    9. Different leadership styles across teams can cause confusion
    10. Employees may not have the necessary confidence to take charge and drive the business forward
    11. The initial speed of decision-making is slower due to high team involvement
    12. Potential for misalignment among team
    13. It may be out of sync with corporate performance management and incentive systems
    14. Decreased motivation and resourcefulness when the leader intervenes to fix issues for th

Are you a servant leader? Do you want to be? Let’s talk and identify ways to bring these concepts into your organization.