It was not that long ago that “management” was the big buzz word in business. Books and seminars about becoming better managers were everywhere. While management is important, why did all the buzz around it not produce the desired results that caused companies to catapult into stratospheric success? Because you cannot manage people…you MUST lead them if your company will ever grow! The best leaders in every industry have come to the realization that if you take care of your people, your people will in turn take care of your business. If you neglect your people and don’t make them priority, they will neglect your business. It really is that simple!
Gone are the days of the overbearing, micro-managing, fist pounding manager who sat behind a huge mahogany desk looking as if his head was going to explode. You may have had the opportunity to work for someone like this. Hopefully, it inspired you to never want to lead people through fear and intimidation. Those types of leaders inspire the absolute minimum in everyone around them. After all, why would anyone want to stick their neck out and implement new ideas for fear of being shot down and belittled?
It is extremely difficult for true leaders who find themselves working for such managers. If you do, you must determine that you will not lead your team in the same fashion. You have the power to break that line of fear and authoritarian style management at your position. How? By leading your team through exceptional service.
Ever since Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term, “Servant Leadership”, there have been countless books, articles, lectures and seminars on what it means to be a servant leader. While the term itself seems like an oxymoron (serving and leading at the same time), a deeper look reveals that it is hands down the best approach to leading people. Servant leadership turns the hierarchical pyramid upside down and means the leader, or the one at the top, is now at the bottom and their focus becomes serving all those who “work for them”.
Does this sound insane or like anarchy at work? Don’t take servant leadership to mean “weak leadership”. To the contrary, it means the boss goes out of his or her way to provide the tools, resources, training and motivation to equip their people to be as successful as possible. Sometimes it requires the leader to sacrifice self-interests in order to help a team member. It also may mean having tough love conversations or removing someone that is hindering the team. In fact, servant leadership requires the leader to constantly look for ways to strengthen the individual and, thus, the entire team.
As leaders, it should be our privilege to serve those we lead. If we effectively model service behaviors to our teams, they will respond in kind with how they serve customers. For example, if an employee approaches you with an issue and you take care of it on the spot for them, you just created a positive example of service to that employee. No matter how busy you are at that moment, the fact that you paused to help them will solidify their importance to you. This is leadership gold! Repeatedly looking for ways to serve your team members shows them what service looks like and they will follow your example.
For those of you in a leadership position, whether entry-level or CEO, get into the habit of going out of your way to serve your employees. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate like an employee appreciation event (although big employee celebrations are important, too). Every day is chocked full of small opportunities to serve your team. For example, take out the office trash for everyone or offer a hard worker an extra 30 minutes at lunch while you handle their tasks. Continually look for ways to serve and they will present themselves to you more often than you may think. Those small opportunities compile and create huge dividends for you and your team!
We must turn our thinking around and move away from our titles and towards gaining real trust from those who follow us. We can’t do that by trying to manage people. We must influence them to buy into the vision and produce better results. The best way to do this is to lead from a servant’s heart and realize we cannot progress in our leadership journey without willing followers.
Please let us know in the comment section about any leaders you have worked with, or for, who exemplify servant leadership.
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Thanks, everyone…go lead well!