A Great Leadership Approach You Probably Don’t Know

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Looking back over my career I reported to some pretty hard-ass people. Many of them were brilliant and I learned immensely, but many were very tough as leaders. There was the one who had me start a quarterly review of my business on Tuesday at 8am and finally let me sit down Wednesday night at 9pm. There was the one who held a division assessment in Germany….on Thanksgiving. There was the one who repeatedly called me at midnight with major changes to presentations I’d worked up all day and wanted to go over them by 3am. The stories I could tell go on and on.

I never had the boss who meets you in the parking lot with coffee and opens your door for you, brings you a bagel mid-morning and asks if you need anything, takes you to a great lunch and then checks in at the end of the day with a cocktail in hand to see how you’re doing.

There is however, an extremely powerful and fruitful leadership balance in the middle of the two.   It’s called “Servant Leadership”.

What exactly is Servant Leadership and why should you employ it regardless of what level you’re at?

The term “servant leadership” has been around for over 50 years. Numerous companies like Zappos, Marriott, Aflac, Starbucks, Nordstrom, REI, SAS and The Container Store to name a few are amongst those who employ it.

But many mistakenly assume that servant leaders are slaves to their employees and easy pushovers who say “yes” to everything

In reality, servant leaders are very much in charge. They just aren’t authoritarians who boss everyone around. Instead, they’re great listeners who are humble and empathetic — but still successfully drive organizational growth.

In short, the “servant” approach to leadership creates the type of atmosphere that promotes both personal and professional advancement. Employees know they can speak freely and be heard — all while being mentored by a strong, trustworthy business leader.

Servant leaders share two fundamental beliefs. They believe that:

*Every person has value and deserves trust, and respect.

*People can accomplish much more when inspired by a purpose beyond just themselves.

 These leaders also put the following practices to work:

*Listen Intently And Observe Closely – Servant leaders really listen to their people and they actively solicit their participation, their ideas, and their feedback.

*Act As Selfless Mentors – Servant leaders know that by helping to guide people, they will help their employees learn vital skills that will both improve their performance and improve them as people.

*Demonstrate PersistenceThey realize that one or two conversations may not have the desired change in an employee’s mindset. So they are tenacious and invest whatever time it takes to educate and inspire the members of their team.

*Hold Themselves And Others Accountable For Their Commitments – Servant leaders know that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes including themselves. That said, they still push for high standards of performance, service quality, and alignment of values throughout the team.   Also, they hold even themselves accountable for expected performance

*Help Employees Improve As Human Beings, Not Just As Professionals – The more people have a chance to grow their own unique personal capabilities, the more they can bring to the professional table.

So what’s your leadership style? What’s it’s going to be if you’re not in management now but want to be?

Here’s the net, net. The best leaders in the world aren’t tough-ass know-it-alls who walk high above their subordinates like many who I worked for. They’re humble servants who understand that companies thrive best when their employees are motivated and feel fulfilled.

If you’re a leader now, take some time to consider this. If you’re an aspiring manager and leader, forming your own management style around Servant Leadership is an excellent stepping off point.


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