What is servant leadership style?

The servant leadership style is based on the idea that leaders prioritise serving the common good. Leaders with this style serve their team and the organisation first. They do not prioritise their own goals. Instead, servant leadership puts employees and their needs first.

Servant leaders are a revolutionary group that takes the traditional power leadership model and turns it completely upside down. This new hierarchy places the people or employees, in a business context, at the top and the leader at the bottom, charged with serving the employees above them. And that is how servant leaders like it. A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of individuals and the communities to which they belong.

While traditional leadership often involves the accumulation and exercise of power by the one at the 'top of the pyramid', servant leadership is different. The servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform at their best. You are a servant leader when you focus on the needs of others before considering your own. It is a long-term approach to leadership, rather than a technique you can adopt in specific situations.

Therefore, you can use it with other leadership styles, such as transformational leadership. Servant leadership occurs when the leader's primary goal and responsibility is to be of service to his or her people. A servant leader focuses on the people directly below him, rather than on the company as a whole. In servant leadership, the leader ensures that followers grow in all areas - their profession, knowledge, autonomy and even their health and physical development.

Servant leadership puts the needs, growth and well-being of the followers first. In other words, these types of leaders adopt a "serve first" mentality and prioritise their organisation, their employees and their community above themselves. Many people who hear the term "servant leadership" for the first time are confused. Servants are not considered to be leaders and leaders are not supposed to be servants.

Yet this apparent contradiction is why the name was chosen. For most of history, leadership was defined by title and wealth. People were born to lead and led from a hierarchical position. Fortunately, theories and practices such as servant leadership have shown that anyone can be a leader and that true leaders are rarely defined by title or wealth.

In fact, often the best leaders are those who spend time serving others to empower them, regardless of their status or position. People gravitate towards positivity, and this type of leadership is defined by actions of listening, developing trust and building relationships, while possessing and displaying the traditional leadership skills of persuasion, foresight and guiding a team to achieve a goal. Based on the introduction, the fact that listening is the first, most important step should come as no surprise. We all know that people often say they are listening, but in reality they are just waiting for their turn to speak.

Those are people who are talking WITH the other person. On the other hand, servant leaders focus on developing their communication skills by actually listening and communicating WITH the other person. You will know if you have practised listening properly if you are able to process what has been said and then apply it to the situation at hand. These actions develop trust naturally through empathy.

You are showing that you are their equal, that you are vulnerable and that you want to support them. Closely linked to conceptualisation, foresight goes beyond articulating the end goals. It is also about creating a map and timeline of how to get there. This requires a special presence to understand what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present and the consequences of your decision.

To have foresight and communicate it effectively, you have to always be processing information and changes in expectations, and then have the ability to clearly convey a message about how that affects your projections. This is often one of the 10 characteristics of servant leadership that people struggle with the most because it seems a bit vague. However, when you see it in action and feel it, you get it. To achieve foresight, you must rely on data, qualitative information and your intuition based on past experience to communicate the objectives, the process and methods you will use and the timeline.

You must also rely on your ability to listen, as your team members are likely to have some foresight. Finally, service leaders must empower the community as a whole. That community may be a small team within a large organisation, your city or even your own company. When you have achieved this tenth principle, you are committed to creating connections within the organisation so that, again, you are not the centre of attention.

Instead, teammates have that same link to each other and can reach out to each other instead of all relationships revolving around you. This web of connections fosters empathy between people, and does not just flow between you and the rest of the team. This kind of relationship building between community members builds trust and moves the organisation forward at the same pace. Now, the team will be more fruitful because everyone feels comfortable communicating with each other and can easily get and stay on the same page.

Trust is a prerequisite for service leaders, as they must trust that employees are worth serving and that they, and the organisation, will benefit from their service. Similarly, researcher Akuchie explored the religious and spiritual articulations of the servant leadership construct. Greenleaf concluded that a new leader must be someone to whom servants or workers can relate. Good servant leaders are those whose primary focus is on people, and this makes the leader fully committed to their growth and development.

Employee perceptions of servant leadership practices and support from employers and co-workers have been found to have a positive effect on the employee's family life. A wide range of different scales have been created to measure the extent of servant leadership and ethics in various organisations. In practice, Southwest Airlines, under the leadership of its founder Herb Kelleher, is often cited as the model corporation for servant leadership. In addition, the organisation as a whole needs to maintain a work culture in which this type of leadership can thrive.

Barter, who now heads the California-based Servant Leadership Institute, came to the concept by a circuitous route working for companies that did not follow his practices. Polleys' views aligned with transformational leadership but, again, made no distinction between charismatic, transformational and servant leadership. In this post, we will explore the definition of this leadership style, its pros and cons, as well as what this type of leader looks like in action. This leadership style has gained immense popularity around the world and is adopted by a number of top companies.

In fact, in many ways encouragement is the hallmark expression of a servant leader, and is a tremendously powerful tool, according to experts.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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