Is it good to be a servant leader?

But while no person or approach is perfect, given the qualities that servant leaders exhibit, we think it is safe to say that servant leadership is one of the most effective approaches to guiding employees towards an outcome that fosters growth, satisfaction and encouragement. It is not about being a cheerleader, but about recognising opportunities for genuine praise and giving team members free rein to execute their ideas. To reap these rewards, several things have to happen, experts say. Servant leadership ultimately begins with a selfless mindset.

If you have selfish motivations, you're not going to be a good servant leader. It has to be less about you, says Falotico. In addition, the organisation as a whole must maintain a work culture in which this type of leadership can thrive. Finally, there are behaviours that servant leaders themselves must practice regularly.

As leaders, we can say what we want, but we will be judged by our behaviour, says Barter. And for the servant leader, behaviour is not just what you do, but how you do it. Servant leaders always listen to people before they say what they think. They want to know what their people think and how they feel.

To improve their listening skills, it is important that when they talk to people, they give them their full attention and pay attention to their tone and body language as they speak. Greenleaf believed that servant leadership was more of a lifestyle than a technique that could be applied all at once. Although the concept was introduced a long time ago, it is still a relatively new concept that needs work. In fact, it was only in 2004 that the concept began to be formally studied in a proper and empirical way.

Selflessness The field of servant leadership asserts that effective leaders are neither ego-centred nor selfish. They do not put their needs before higher goals. But it is possible to be selfless without serving the needs of followers. In fact, it can be argued that true leadership demands the sacrifice of followers.

The call of environmental leaders for people to stop using their gas-guzzling cars asks followers to make sacrifices for the sake of the environment. Great servant leaders often have the ability to listen, a lot of empathy, the ability to develop others, good persuasive skills and the ability to think broadly. Servant leadership often leads to high employee engagement, highly motivated employees and a strong sense of ethics. Unfortunately, servant leadership can lead to a strong focus on individuals and consequently less focus on the real goals of the organisation.

Furthermore, servant leadership is known to take a long time to establish and does not work in all organisations. A servant leader must have little or no ego, which is a rare trait among leaders. For example, a military leader would be ineffective because he or she would not have the power to make quick, life-and-death decisions that could seriously affect his or her people. Interesting but false Servant leadership is most interesting if it means that managers must literally serve their subordinates.

Other leadership experts have tried to define and modernise the concept in the context of today's organisations. This is because these leaders possess a "serve first" mentality, and focus on empowering and elevating those who work for them. It is a completely selfless type of leadership that focuses on improving people at its core and organisations as a whole. Reading and learning about servant leadership also humbles me, as it reminds me how much more I have to learn and how many more things I have to perfect.

Servant leaders see people as an important resource to invest in and equip them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to be effective and fulfil their potential. Managers who position themselves as servants to their teams one day and discipline or fire them the next invite cynicism and distrust. A big part of servant leadership is focusing on developing others, so consider helping employees learn what it takes to take on these broader roles. He cites with approval one expert's view that if a manager does not spend at least 25 percent of his or her time developing future leaders, then he or she is not fulfilling his or her responsibilities as a leader.

Even if the leader feels the need to disagree or intervene, he or she will wait until the person has finished speaking. Leaders never use their authority to force people to do something, but motivate and encourage people to take the desired course of action. The more the cause correlates with what is good, right and true, the more it constitutes great service, and that is what servants are for. Servant leaders believe this approach reveals the untapped creative and performance capabilities of people, especially their own.

Darryl Spivey, a faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) who trains executives in servant leadership, says that asking the right questions is the secret sauce of great coaching, and is crucial for servant leaders.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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