How to apply servant leadership in the workplace?

Servant leadership is a style based on the desire to serve and give to your community. By putting the needs of others first, you empower people to do their best. When community members see your passion and commitment through your actions, they want to be connected to you. Servant leadership goes against beliefs that define leadership as hierarchical, patriarchal and related to wealth or status.

Instead, as the name suggests, it focuses on serving others to help them grow, often without the title or recognition that comes with many leadership roles. Robert Greenleaf, the originator of servant leadership theory, chose the name because it is contradictory and the polar opposite of typical leadership theories.

Servant leaders

are excellent at making their teams feel that they matter. Encouraging their teams to work together, innovate and share their opinions shows them that they are listened to and appreciated.

This can motivate teams to do their best, and often results in higher quality work. For example, when a team member does not complete a task, the servant leader lends a hand and manages them as an equal team member, rather than just supervising. They set an example for others to participate equally and support the team in times of need. Rapid change, unpredictability and the need for agility have highlighted the need for leaders to support and empower an innovative and adaptable workforce.

Understanding the components and strategies of servant leadership will help you successfully implement a servant leadership approach in your workplace. This "serve-first" mentality can be put into practice early on, during an employee's onboarding phase, says Michael Timmes, a leadership expert and consultant and trainer with national human resources provider Insperity. Over the years, the concept of helping others grow has become an important part of any leadership theory; true leaders want to help others succeed. Now that we have seen the characteristics that successful servant leaders possess, let's look at how best to apply servant leadership in an organisation.

A servant leader leads by example by demonstrating the values and behaviours he or she wants to see in others and speaks to those who are not aligned with those values. Servant leaders create innovative goals and strategies to bring out these traits to push boundaries and motivate employees to take charge. The term "servant leadership" has been around for decades and refers to a "philosophy and set of practices that enrich people's lives, build better organisations, and ultimately create a more just and caring world, according to the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Servant leaders are committed to helping others realise their dreams and to creating a work environment that nurtures that energy.

According to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching, Taoism rejects the power of leadership that encompasses winning, competitive alliances and manipulation. Sinek Simon, the leadership guru, in his iconic TED talk, "How Leaders Inspire Action", states that it is essential to ask "why". Servant leadership goes against the belief that leadership is defined as hierarchical, patriarchal and related to wealth or status. Servant leadership is selfless leadership that was exemplified by Nelson Mandela as he led his nation through reconciliation after its many years of racial apartheid.

In 2004, when Barter became CEO of Datron, a supplier of tactical communications equipment, he was determined to lead the company as a servant leader. Moreover, the organisation as a whole needs to maintain a work culture in which this kind of leadership can thrive. If serving staff is the core principle of servant leadership, two fundamental practices to achieve that goal are listening attentively and asking questions.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

Passionate beer expert. Professional musicaholic. Incurable communicator. Evil food specialist. Passionate food junkie. Devoted music fan.