Servant leadership is exactly just that. A leader who looks to serve others as their first priority. It’s about building up your team by placing their needs first in order to help develop them that they may be able to perform responsibilities at a greater level. Some believe that the most successful businesses, companies and organizations are ones that are built on the philosophy of servant leadership. Unlike traditional leadership, where the main focus is the thriving of the company based on the ideas and goals from the top of the pyramid, servant leadership focuses on personal development with the belief that this will ultimately pour out into individual performance creating a thriving atmosphere as well as a successful company. It negates the idea that one person operates in a position of power and instead collaborates, by sharing power amongst the team.
Keep in mind that servant leadership is not just something you do. It’s something you become. To be a servant leader one must embrace a different mindset for success. As a servant leader one must demonstrate certain traits and characteristics in order to successfully serve and grow their team. Some of these characteristics are as follows:
- Active Listener
- Awareness of Self
- Promotes a Healthy Well Being
By definition, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In order to accomplish this one must develop enough of a relationship with someone to know what is going on in their world. Through relationship we are able to see into one another’s lives, sharing our experiences which provide us understanding. From here we are able to care and help one another as we empathize with what they are going through. People long for acceptance and to be understood. They want to be recognized for who they are. Building relationships where we can grow to understand one another allows us to encourage and lift others up, helping them to grow and thrive in every area of life. Developing the skill set of being an empathetic listener attributes to being a successful servant leader.
Often we hear of the values of communication but do we realize that one of the greatest components of communication is listening? Active listening, a skill in which one listens intently to what is being said and unsaid, is essential when it comes to developing good habits of communication. By listening to others you can help to resolve conflicts, offer counsel and impart training. Skilled communication and decision making are grounded in a commitment to actively listen to others. This allows for the leader to have a complete understanding of interpersonal situations and guides leaders in making the best decisions based on what they are dealing with. Along with listening to others, periods of reflecting on what is being communicated aids in the growth and well being of both the leader and their team.
Awareness of Self
Having a clear understanding of your own thoughts and behavior patterns ultimately affects how you relate to others. Awareness of personal strengths, weaknesses, values and feelings allows one to understand biases without allowing them to dictate decisions. It also helps to facilitate healthier personal and professional relationships as self awareness promotes relational connection points. Encouraging others to seek growth by finding confidence in their own personal strengths, weaknesses, values and feelings leads to a healthy morale and overall atmosphere in ones workplace. Though self awareness may grant one the benefit of inner serenity, the objective is that it lends to the ability to view situations with a more integrated approach; enabling one to step outside of themselves so they can interpret communications clearly and redirect thought processes as needed. Leading with this example promotes a healthy work setting allowing for open and productive communications.
Promote a Healthy Well Being
People under leadership desire for a sincere interest in their mental and emotional well being. By actively promoting emotional and mental health, leaders inspire a greater level of trust from those working for them. A workplace that promotes emotional and mental health has been shown to improve productivity, sustain high morale, reduce health risk factors as well as absenteeism. Almost every person can relate to having emotional hurts and pains as this is the human experience. Knowing this, we have an opportunity to step in as leaders and share in the healing process of one anothers journeys. There’s a powerful thing that happens when two or more partner in the search for wholeness. Transformation. It’s out of this experience that one is empowered to live more fully; embracing the day to day with a positive mindset which then reflects in other areas of their lives including their working environment.
The philosophy of servant leadership has shown to have many advantages. In a day where more and more people are struggling with emotional and mental health issues and having to carry the weight of making ends meet, this philosophy creates a productive space where people can grow and thrive and quite possibly redirect areas of their lives outside of work for the better. Just like satisfaction in the workplace increases productivity levels, satisfaction in the workplace has the potential to produce positive effects outside of the workplace as well.
Read part two, To Lead is to Serve part two