What Servant Leadership Is and How It Can Transform Your Business
Recent IT and technology advancements such as cloud computing and storage allow business owners access to unlimited IT capacity, which is impossible with hard storage methods. As IT systems become more complex, the continued optimization of cloud services will allow these companies to scale faster, be more flexible, and accelerate business operations.
While implementing emerging digital technologies is critical to any corporation’s growth, the management of people, assets, and finances is most responsible for successful business outcomes. And while many types of leadership models can help accomplish this, servant leadership can truly motivate people and transforms companies.
“Developing exceptional leaders begins with a culture that promotes learning. Consider offering a robust leadership development program to help managers acquire the proper skills, including developing emotional intelligence, building relationships and identifying skill gaps that translate to highly engaged, top-performing teams.”
Different Leadership Styles
Leadership is not only learned from books. It is also developed from experience. But, different leadership models also have certain temperaments or personality characteristics. How a supervisor, manager, or executive directs and motivates their teams to execute corporate strategies to the benefit of stakeholders can take on a variety of styles.
The bureaucratic leader is all about sticking to the rules and following strict procedures. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the laissez-faire leader. This type of manager believes in allowing a lot of decision-making freedom to subordinates, sometimes at the risk of productivity and accountability.
Some leaders are visionaries, opting to follow hidden trends and personal goals instead of current best practices and economic indicators, while others can be more authoritarian. The authoritarian leadership style exercises complete control over all decisions, with little or no input from divisional leaders.
Here, we will explore the servant leadership style of management, a modern business concept that can build better organizations while enriching employees’ lives.
The Theory Behind Servant Leadership
Robert K. Greenleaf popularized the term ‘servant leadership in the 1970s with the publication of an essay titled “The Servant as Leader.” The essay was loosely based on a fictional book character that temporarily left his company, only to discover that in his absence, everything falls apart. This corporate failure led to the owner’s realization of how important he was not only as a business owner but also as a coworker – or a servant leader.
The Greenleaf theory of servant leadership believes that an effective leader must be relatable, trusted, and have the ability to self-direct. The “I serve” mentality is the foundation of a servant leader – putting concern for employees first and personal ambitions second.
The Characteristics of a Servant Leader
First and foremost, a servant leader is always prepared to serve and lead. These leaders understand those happy employees are more productive and less likely to seek employment elsewhere. So, the question is – how can a leader avoid alienating employees and let them know they are trusted and valued members of the entire corporation?
Workers feel appreciated when a leader is more interested in helping employees succeed and grow within an organization. Too often, management is more focused on profits and telling workers what to do than they are on making the worker feel that they are an essential member of the team (and they are!).
Other characteristics of a servant leadership style include humble managers who make decisions (even the difficult ones) ethically and fairly. This leader is compassionate and understanding – but not at the risk of making bad decisions.
Servant leaders lead by example. We’ve all seen the television version of a coach or other leader telling their hard-working subordinates that they won’t be asked to do anything that the coach isn’t willing to do themselves. This is servant leadership in action.
But, for servant leadership to be effective, the leader must be trustworthy and not communicate falsehoods or embellishments. A servant leader must be able to navigate complex business situations while remaining firmly grounded in the day-to-day operations of their people.
In a nutshell, a servant leader constantly collaborates with employees, solves problems together, and gets through tough times, standing side-by-side (in principle and deed) with employees.
What are the benefits?
A servant leader does not forsake corporate goals for the benefit of employees. Both go hand-in-hand. What’s good for employee morale and motivation should also be good for business. Leaders should improve work performance when they focus on keeping employees engaged and satisfied. It will even promote collaboration and innovation that can save time and labor and increase profits.
Also, companies that promote a servant leadership culture will likely have less turnover. Disengaged employees are more prone to slacking off, missing days, or failing to meet expectations. And, when workers truly feel unappreciated, with no room for growth, and no support from management, they are often motivated to leave for greener pastures.
But, there is a word of caution for servant leaders to be wary of burnout and not achieving corporate goals. A good servant leader must still delegate tasks effectively and should still be able to achieve corporate goals. If this type of leader is perceived as weak, the potential is to get the opposite effect. And that is a workforce that may think the workplace is for other, outside or personal goals that are not for the company’s benefit.
Written by Daniel Hurt.
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