Of all the leadership styles and choices, why choose Servant Leadership? Well, there are many reasons, some of which we will explore in this post, and some in future posts. Let’s get this conversation started by taking a look at Servant Leadership as a principle. In this post, we will also explore Servant Leadership as a practical tool, and as a way of being, or living our life.
The Principles of Servant Leadership
There are many principles of Servant Leadership. Service is the foundation of all the rest, and is the fundamental basis for this leadership style. In order to serve others, one must serve themselves first. This is where it all starts.
Service to the Self
In order to be an effective leader, one must understand their own growth opportunities, and actively work on them. Service to others, starts with this understanding. More, it means being open to critique and feedback from others on areas that you have opportunities to develop.
As a leader, one of your main objectives is to develop those that work for you, and with you. Likewise, you must start by developing yourself in all areas, those that you know about, and those you don’t. The latter are called blind spots, and the team you work with, once a safe and trusting environment is created, will point them out to you.
If you defend yourself and make justifications for these blind spots, you will not grow. And, if you are closed to growth opportunities, your team will also be closed. If your team is closed to growth, you will not gain traction in your business model, or you will only gain traction to a point. You will not go further into that unknown area of growth that most teams never reach.
Accepting our blind spots, and actively creating opportunities to develop skills in those areas will create more trust with your team. Additionally, you will show them that you have the ability to be vulnerable and authentic, which are two more very important principles of being a Servant Leader.
Service to the Team
Many leadership styles depend on the typical organizational hierarchy, where the leaders sit at the top of the pyramid, and look down on the rest of the staff. Effectively, pushing out and down directions, without much dialogue from the team about the effectiveness of such directives.
Servant Leadership turns that pyramid upside down, which means that front line staff are, in effect at the top of the hierarchy and in a position to effect change within the organization. It means that leaders do provide direction to staff, yet do so in a way that encourages, even demands, reciprocal dialogue and conversation.
Implementing an approach that encourages reciprocal dialogue and conversation requires a willingness from leaders to realize that they do not, could not, have all the answers. It also requires an understanding that the leaders primary job is serving and developing the team.
As with service to the self, leaders must remain open to serving their teams in the same way, implementing the same types of techniques, which we will explore more in future posts.
The Servant Leadership model also requires leaders to develop the ability to pull people to them, and push people into action when necessary. Though, of the two, the former is the more important aspect of the Servant Leadership model, leaders must also have the fortitude to hold themselves, and the people they work with accountable to rigorous standards and expectations.
Servant Leadership as a Way of Being
Servant Leadership is a leadership style that can be used in all aspects of your life, from relationships with friends and family, to service activities within the community. As a way of being, Servant Leadership requires an understanding that relationships are everything.
Relationships start with the one you have with yourself. Once that relationships is healthy and strong, you are ready to develop high-quality relationships with those around you, and throughout the community. It is impossible to develop healthy, high-quality, relationships with others until you are clear on the relationships you have with yourself.
Servant leadership principles can be utilized in all contexts, because these principles, some of which we have explored here, are simple and pragmatic. These principles are about practice, and the necessity of respecting, honoring, and celebrating yourself and all of those around you.
Leading is something that people do in all walks and aspect of life. And, Servant Leadership is a leadership style, that I believe, is uniquely adaptable to all of these contexts. It is also unique in that it puts the development of the self first, with an understanding that developing yourself is a necessary ingredient to the eventual development of others, whether those others be those in your personal or professional contexts.
Greenleaf, Robert K. (2020). The Robert K Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. What is Servant Leadership. URL.