Servant Leadership Defined

When people think of a leader, they instantly picture a person who calls the shots and commands everyone else to follow. However, to be a good leader, one must be a good follower, hence the importance of servant leadership. What is it, and how does one apply it at work and in one’s personal life? Read on to find out.

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership theory is an idea that has been gaining a lot of attention over the past decade. At the most basic, it pertains to the philosophy of being a leader through authority rather than power. That said, it doesn’t focus much on control. Instead, the main purpose is to foster synergy to achieve goals. 

The term can be traced back to Robert K. Greenleaf, who first used it in the 70s. In a published essay, the author proposed that a servant-leader is servant first – after all, a leader must have a natural desire to serve.

Traditional vs. Servant leaders

According to Greenleaf, there is a huge difference between a person who is a leader first versus one who is a servant first. For instance, a servant-leader seeks to ensure that other people’s priorities are served. 

The servant-leader does everything in their power to ensure that the people served become wiser, healthier, and freer. In short, there is a greater focus on serving rather than on aiming for power or material wealth.

Servant Leadership Best Practices 

Now that we know what it means, how does one apply this concept to everyday tasks and decisions? Here are a few servant leadership examples and best practices to start with

Leading with Empathy

One crucial part of being a servant leader is leading with empathy. This means trying to understand team members better. In addition to that, this also entails placing oneself in another person’s position. By doing so, you don’t risk being an authoritarian boss whom everyone hates to work with. Rather, you become a leader people respect and would really want to follow.

Listening to People

One of the most vital servant leadership characteristics is the ability to listen. What do your team members have to say about the current situation? Do they have any suggestions to improve the current process? Hearing other people’s take on things can help widen your perspective as a leader. Furthermore, it can also help the team come up with solutions that work well for everyone involved. 

Know Your Team Members

Have you ever had to work with a leader who doesn’t even know your name? Chances are, you wouldn’t go out of your way to help that person when they ask for it. You’ll just get your job done, and that’s it – what’s the point of going the extra mile when the leader doesn’t do it, right? 

The good news is when you listen to your people and empathize with them, knowing them will come out naturally. And by doing so, you’ll be privy to their strengths and weaknesses, thus allowing you to assign them to tasks more effectively.

Have a Good Foresight

It’s hard to keep the ship afloat when all you do is to react to what’s happening at the moment. To be an effective leader, you have to have good foresight. This is especially crucial in today’s world, where tech has made everything a lot more agile, volatile, and fast. 

One way to do this is to look at your process from the outside in. What are new ideas that could innovate how you do things? What opportunities can you tap into? Not being complacent fosters your commitment to growth and allows your team members to do the same.