When not to be a servant leader?

For example, when all you want are short-term goals and you are willing to throw away your investment and lose the team after those immediate goals are achieved, then servant leadership may not work. It is not about being a cheerleader, but about recognising opportunities for genuine praise and unleashing team members to execute their ideas. One of the most obvious limitations of servant leadership is that leaders must be willing to relinquish absolute authority. This runs counter to the traditional workplace structure, in which CEOs make all decisions, communicate them to subordinates, and receive credit when those decisions are implemented by the rank and file.

One of the problems with servant leadership is that leaders must sublimate their egos. Servant leadership is about giving credit to employees for helping them exceed performance standards. It is difficult to find entrepreneurs who are willing to act selflessly in their quest for success, which is one of the disadvantages of servant leadership. A good leader can anticipate future events and how they will impact on everyone.

Foresight is not a God-given talent, but a skill acquired through experience, learning and analysis of past trends. Popular business tools such as SWOT and PEST analysis can be used to predict the future and make informed forecasts. To reap these rewards, several things have to happen, experts say. Servant leadership ultimately starts 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. As a servant leader, you are a servant first: you focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before considering your own. You acknowledge the views of others, give them the support they need to achieve their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions when necessary and create a sense of community within your team.

This leads to greater commitment, more trust and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders. It can also lead to greater innovation. Servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique as such. Rather, it is a way of behaving that is adopted over the long term.

It is a complement to democratic leadership styles and has similarities to transformational leadership - which is often the most effective style in business situations - and to Level 5 leadership, where leaders demonstrate humility in the way they work. Most examples that explain servant leadership are not only difficult, but impossible to achieve. Take the example of Jesus Christ, an example far beyond human reach. Practice servant leader behaviours in solving real problems, not the ones you think are important, but the ones that are important to the team(s).

There is ongoing research on servant leadership, and leaders who practice this style of leadership must ensure that it is done honestly and ethically. In practice, Southwest Airlines, under the leadership of its founder Herb Kelleher, is often cited as the model servant leadership corporation. Finally, the theory does not specify whether the attributes that help define servant leadership are supposedly innate or learned. The literature on servant leadership uses patriarchal connotations, although the theory uses a male-female contrast to create an emotional appeal.

A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of individuals and the communities to which they belong. In servant leadership, the leader ensures that followers grow in all areas: their careers, their knowledge, their autonomy and even their health and physical development. The servant leader goes beyond the transactional aspects of management and instead actively seeks to develop and align employees' sense of purpose with the company's mission. Establishing a successful servant leadership system takes time because it requires a commitment to developing your staff and promoting personal and professional growth.

Business owners should carefully analyse their organisational structure to determine whether these disadvantages of servant leadership outweigh the benefits of this approach. While the servant leader focuses on the needs of his or her employees, he or she still leads critically. Servant leaders use persuasion - rather than their authority - to encourage people to act. In today's leadership circles, the concept gained much popularity with Robert Greenleaf's 1971 essay, The Servant as Leader.

Experts offer a number of best practice suggestions for senior executives who aspire to become successful servant leaders. Although servant leadership has been proven to be an exceptionally effective leadership style, the first challenge is the negative connotation that the name implies. But the more often a servant leader comes to the rescue, the less motivation it gives employees to work hard.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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