Why are servant leaders so effective?

Servant leaders encourage people to think for themselves and try out their own ideas. For example, a servant leader encourages people to use time management, accelerate development and eliminate hassles for customers. In addition, a servant leader celebrates when employees try innovative approaches to making improvements. The idea is that the servant leader is a whole person, not fragmented or closed in any sense.

That, in turn, inspires others to be whole as well. Servant leadership is important because it creates a nurturing environment in which workers feel they are the head, appreciated and respected. It can help companies build stronger work cultures, with high employee morale and commitment. Great leaders have a vision and a strong sense of what their organisation aims to achieve.

Great leaders also know what their team needs in order to realise that vision. 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 '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.

Trust is a prerequisite for servant-leaders, as they must trust that employees are worth serving and that they, and the organisation, will benefit from their service. But therein lies a paradox: leaders who are able to let go often find that they actually have more control, because they have harnessed the resources and talents of their staff, who collectively can guide operations more effectively than any one person, he explains. Initially, Greenleaf had the idea of benefiting the organisation, so that everyone could come together on common ground, from entry-level employees to middle management and all the way up to senior management. Short-term individual goals are a poor substitute for the higher purpose that servant leadership helps to foster.

Let's define servant leadership and discuss the pros and cons, benefits and characteristics of the concept. If an employee is struggling, leaders must ask themselves what may be impeding their progress. No leadership model, from transformational to bureaucratic, is perfect for every company, every leader and every situation. Like most management styles, you can find management gurus willing to detail examples of servant leadership that capture the process.

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". In fields that are vital in this pandemic, such as healthcare and global development, one might believe that values such as caring and service to others are integral to the role, but not all leaders embody these traits. While the servant leader focuses on the needs of his or her employees, he or she still leads critically. But it is impossible for a leader to be everywhere at once, to oversee all the key elements and decisions that are made on a regular basis.

Greenleaf, who died in 1990, went on to found the Atlanta-based Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. As a servant leader, you must be aware of what is happening around you, with your team, and of future threats and opportunities.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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