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Leadership plays a vital role in any organization, and servant leadership is a specific type of leadership that places the needs of others before the needs of the leader. Servant leaders focus on developing other people and creating a mutual trust and respect culture.
What you will learn:
- What is Servant Leadership?
- Who coined servant leadership?
- How does servant leadership work?
- Four main principles of servant leadership
- What is an example of servant leadership?
- How to become a good servant leader?
- Servant leadership vs. Traditional leadership
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Servant leadership
- Final Thought
They work to build relationships with team members and get to know them as individuals to help them reach their potential. While servant leadership can be challenging, it is also rewarding, and it can lead to better outcomes for both the individual team members and the organization as a whole.
In today’s complicated environment, leaders must assess their followers’ needs and help them reach their fullest potential. A servant leadership style is a form of affiliative leadership in which a leader uses their power to benefit those they lead.
Related: 16 Leadership Styles
What is Servant Leadership? (Let’s Dive Deep)
One of the most commonly used definitions of servant leadership comes from Robert K. Greenleaf’s article “The Servant as Leader” (1970). In this essay, Greenleaf defined a servant leader as one who had “the well being of those he is leading as his first consideration.”
Servant leaders are characterized by their low-ego, selfless approach to leadership. They are not power-hungry or egotistical individuals who want more control than everyone else. Instead, they want to ensure that their followers are successful and happy.
A servant leader can be someone in a formal leadership position, as an office manager. However, this is unnecessary; anyone can act as a servant leader. If you are leading even one other person, you have the opportunity to use a servant leadership style.
For example, parents can act as servants to their children by taking care of them and supporting them even if they disagree with their choices.
Simply, servant leadership is a management style in which you prioritize the needs of your team. It can be used in any organization or community to create an environment beneficial to everyone involved.
Related: What is Leadership
Who coined Servant Leadership?
The term “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay, “The Servant as Leader.” He posits that influential leaders serve those they lead and work to empower them to develop and achieve as much as possible. Greenleaf, the creator of a servant leadership theory, named it because it is the opposite of most leaders.
How does Servant Leadership work?
According to Robert K Greenleaf in The Power of Servant Leadership, servant leadership works at two levels.
First, servant leader focuses on the needs of their employees at all costs. They ensure that everyone is being served and not just themselves. They also have a passion for their people to be successful. Second, they lead in critical ways by setting the strategic vision for the company and communicating it down to the team level.
They also provide clarity on the overall direction and company values, priorities, expectations, and limitations—this way, they give their employees the guidance they need to make good decisions.
Four main principles of Servant Leadership
When you want to become a servant leader, you must understand what makes someone a good leader. The four main principles of servant leadership are: seek first to understand, then be understood; act as a servant leader; demonstrate empathy; and listen for the fullest meaning behind the words.
If you want to become a servant leader, you should remember that your goal is to serve others and work for their success. There are four main principles that successful servant leaders follow to be among future leaders.
1.) Seek first to understand, then be understood
Focus on understanding the needs and goals of those you lead before understanding. Your mission as a servant leader is to help others succeed. If you do not strive for this goal first above all else, then you will fail as a leader.
2.) Act as a servant leader
The key to acting as a servant leader is to take your focus off yourself and to put it on those you are leading instead. A servant leader is capable of making people feel better. They focus on emotional health and the feeling that everything will be alright.
Your only goal should be the success of others, not merely your advancement or personal achievement. As long as you work toward this goal, you will be a servant leader.
3.) Demonstrate empathy
Successful leaders are always empathetic since you cannot understand the needs and goals of those you lead without it. Therefore, you must put yourself in their shoes and try to know what they want out of life because this understanding helps you serve them better.
4.) Listen for the fullest meaning behind the words
This principle of servant leadership reflects that your job as a leader is to listen and understand fully, never questioning what you hear. Your actions will be more successful and beneficial when listening and understanding fully.
If you want to become a servant leader, your goal is to serve others and work for their success. First, you must make sure your language is clear and understandable.
Second, make sure to communicate with others before trying to understand yourself. Third, focus on the success of the people you are leading above all else, not merely your advancement or personal achievement. Finally, consistently demonstrate empathy because you cannot lead successfully without it.
What is an example of servant leadership?
Mary Ann Franks is a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. She has been described as an example of servant leadership because she has demonstrated dedication to the students in her class and her support on campus.
Franks’s actions have included speaking to incoming students about being positive, safe adults, mentoring female law students on navigating professional work environments, and serving on the International Women’s Association leadership board.
What are the roles of a servant leader?
- Servant leaders serve their employees; this separates them from managers who manage people.
- A leader must be genuine and care about others before caring about what they have to say or ask for in return.
- The essence of servant leadership is putting the needs of your team members first, before your own needs, making sure that you understand their priorities, and showing an interest in helping them achieve their goals personally and professionally.
- It means sharing power, allowing employees to contribute ideas that can help the company grow and make decisions whenever possible.
- The servant-leader must lead through influence by demonstrating competence, helping people develop, and optimizing their performance.
How to become a good servant leader?
A leader is somebody who motivates their team members towards success. Of course, there are many definitions of what a leader is. Still, some common things can be seen in different types of leaders – one being that they have autonomy over their decisions, and another being that they drive others to work towards common goals.
However, different types of leadership styles have different ways of leading – some are autocratic; some maybe like transformational leadership, others democratic; and still, many try to be more of a Servant Leader who puts the needs of their team members before their own.
If you want to become a good servant leader, here are some characteristics of servant leadership that might help:
– Understanding the team you lead
One of the first things to do is understand your team. What are their needs? How well do they work together? How can they be best motivated towards working for common goals? It would be best if you took the time to get to know your team members and understand what motivates them, what demotivates them, and their goals and expectations.
– Understanding yourself
As a servant leader, you need to know yourself and understand your needs, motivations, and goals. Every team member can be a good servant leader – but for that to happen, you need to lead by example and make sure you meet your own needs.
If you are always available to listen to your team members, motivate them towards common goals, and make sure they get what they need – then you will be setting the example of how a good servant leader should behave.
As a servant leader, you need strong listening skills. Let your team lead by making sure that their ideas are heard, their opinions are valued, and they feel like they can contribute to its success. If you listen to what your team has to say, if you value their ideas, if you motivate them towards common goals – then you are on your way to being a good servant leader.
– Empowering others
Sometimes a good servant leader must take over. For example, if you have a team member who has committed themselves to the goals and they are putting in more effort towards them than anyone else – then sometimes it might be necessary for you to take over.
However, even if that is the case – a good servant leader should empower their other team members to step up and contribute in the same way that one team member did.
– Being a role model
If you don’t want to become a tyrant leader, autocratic leader, or don’t want to let your team run all over you, your team members need to see that YOU are leading by example. You might be there as a good servant leader – but if your team sees that you are not practicing what you preach, they will soon lose respect for you.
– Taking care of yourself
It is probably the essential characteristic of becoming a good servant leader! If you do not take care of yourself, nobody else around you will be able to either. Therefore, it is vital as a servant leader to take care of yourself – make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, and make time for friends and family.
– Taking responsibility
Good servant leader takes responsibility for their actions – even if they are not directly responsible. If a team member tells you that something is going wrong with a project, and you feel like it has nothing to do with you – make sure you take responsibility for getting to the bottom of the issue regardless.
– Being proactive
A good servant leader does not sit back and hope that things will change – they take action! If something needs doing (and it’s within your power), then do it. If you don’t, and something goes wrong – then it is your fault. It’s better to be proactive and try to prevent anything from going wrong in the first place!
– Taking care of other people
A good servant leader makes sure that everybody around them is doing okay. They ask about other people’s lives. They listen when other people speak. They congratulate others when appropriate, and they give advice where it’s needed.
– Being honest
A good servant leader will always be honest with their team – even if the truth makes them look bad in front of other people or themselves (especially if it makes them look bad). Telling somebody that they are wrong is not easy to do – but it is necessary when everybody else around them seems to agree.
– Being able to delegate
Sometimes you will not be in a position where you can take care of everything yourself – mainly if your team has grown in size. A good servant leader knows how to apply the proper pressure on the right people for the right amount of time.
– Being a good communicator
If your team members don’t know what they should be doing, and you don’t tell them – then there’s a problem. A good servant leader can communicate their ideas effectively, and they are strong enough leaders that people will follow them!
– Encouraging learning & self-improvement
A good servant leader knows that everybody around them has something to teach. So, if somebody comes up with a brilliant idea, or if somebody manages to do something better than you – then let them have their moment! After all, this is how we learn and grow as individuals.
– Being flexible
There are always multiple ways of doing things. It’s crucial for a good servant leader to realize that and to be able to adapt their leadership style when required. There’s no “one way” of achieving your goals – so being flexible is critical.
Servant leadership vs. Traditional leadership
Traditional leadership is when leaders are only in power because they are higher up on the hierarchy. They have more power than their employees and, therefore, make decisions that aren’t always in the employee’s best interest. The person in charge does not necessarily want to help others or help find solutions for employees.
Servant leadership is when the leader serves their employees. They are more interested in planning for the future of the business rather than caring about whether they are higher up on the ladder or not. Servant leaders help find solutions for problems, rather than blaming them on others, and also servant-leader shares power.
Related: What is Transactional Leadership?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Servant leadership
The first advantage of this is that people will learn to serve and help others. Secondly, people will learn how to balance life and work. Thirdly, it’s an excellent relationship between followers and leaders, and lastly, servant leadership can create a better society.
One of the disadvantages is that some people might not understand serving as a leadership role or think it’s more like subordination. People might also believe that it’s not a proper leadership role because people will be doing activities together without them being the leader.
In conclusion, servant leaders must understand how to serve and do everything for their followers. It teaches about relationships between people and how they can succeed in life. To get started, one must have patience and wisdom to do servant leadership.
You might be wondering what servant leadership is and how it differs from other types of management.
It’s not easy to fully wrap your head around the idea at first. Still, suppose you think about it this way. In that case, servant leaders focus on developing other people rather than themselves, creating a culture of mutual trust and respect instead of one that centers on climbing hierarchies or power dynamics.
Servant leaders focus less on their own needs (even though they still have them) because there’s no point in leading others well if they can’t do anything for themselves.