Servant Leadership – What’s the Big Deal?
Traditionally, leadership has been about being the boss and utilizing your power and authority to get stuff done and accomplish the mission of the organization. However, there are compelling reasons why servant leadership is a better way to go!
Servant leadership has been advocated by many well-known leaders, like Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard. The term was actually coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay published in 1970 called The Servant Leader, which has been expanded and is now a book.
A servant leader makes serving others their main priority by putting the needs of others before their own. They actively develop and motivate them to expand their full potential. Servant leaders intentionally set out to share the power rather than be authoritarian.
In contrast, the typical leader is concerned with accumulating and exercising power and being in charge.
Long before Robert K. Greenleaf was highlighting servant leadership, Jesus modeled it! He loved His disciples – His heart was for them. He was not a “wimpy leader” – He had the power of His father at His fingertips, and yet still served His disciples. Jesus saw the needs and responded to them. He cultivated strong close relationships with His followers and took an active role in developing His disciples – He wanted the best for them. The decisions He made benefited others at a great cost to Him.
Some two thousand plus years later, what Jesus demonstrated is still going strong. That’s leadership!
Wondering if you are a servant leader? Ask yourself…
- Are the people under me growing and developing; operating out of their maximum potential?
- Am I duplicating myself and creating other servant leaders?
- Are the people I lead functioning in healthy and autonomous ways?
- Is the culture I’ve created a collaborative and positive one?
- Am I intentionally stretching and growing so that I am able to improve my ability to lead and serve?
- Am I approachable? Do my people feel comfortable sharing their needs and desires with me?
- Am I willing to give my team the credit while I assume responsibility?
- Do my people feel confident that I have their back?
- Am I actively sharing the power?
- Am I genuinely cultivating relationships with those I lead?
If you are able to answer yes to these questions, congratulations! You are well on your way to being a servant leader.
If you answered no to any of the above questions, there’s some work to be done. Lack of confidence and personal fears have a way of hindering your ability to be a servant leader. If you truly want to be a servant leader, you must overcome the beliefs and mindsets that are interfering with that happening.
Does this really apply to me?
Now you might be thinking I am not a C suite leader, executive director, or someone with a spiffy title, does this really apply to me? It really does, and let me share why. You see we all lead ourselves. People are watching you! They are observing your habits and example, then either following in your footsteps or attempting to avoid your example altogether.
You may not have thought about it this way, but parenting is all about leading your family. If you are a coach, you are leading others is profound ways. If you own your own business – you are leading! You may be on a team and not necessarily the person in charge, but don’t underestimate the ability you have to influence – aka lead!
Being a servant leader is about helping others and you can do that without any title at all!
So what’s the Big Deal? Why put in the effort to become a servant leader? Here are some very compelling reasons to consider: Servant leadership creates a…
- Humble, positive, and cohesive culture that’s inspiring
- Substantial surge in productivity
- Team that is flourishing personally and professionally
- Environment where creativity and innovation thrive
- A setting where people are actually excited about work and engagement is elevated
- Drop in staff turnover
- Diverse team because you appreciate the unique abilities that others are able to contribute
- Team of empowered folks!
- Purpose focused team
- Natural duplicating of servant leaders that keep the vision for your organization alive and well
- Greater trust
- Safe enough atmosphere where genuine feedback can be offered and received
- Place for strong relationships to be cultivated with the team and stakeholders
- Desire to follow the vision
These are amazing benefits in whatever capacity you lead: a Fortune 500 company, your family, or your own business!
Inspired to be a servant leader yourself? Larry C. Spears has summarized the key characteristics of a servant leader as one who is able to…
- Listen – really listen and be receptive
- Empathize – appreciate and care about the unique needs of others
- Heal – help others become whole
- Be Aware – to be self-aware and aware of the needs of others
- Persuade – never manipulate or dictate, but win others over in a winsome way
- Conceptualize – seeing the possibilities, dreaming big dreams
- Have Foresight – learn from mistakes and uses that learning to make future decisions
- Steward Well – use their skills, talents, and abilities to serve others
- Develop Others – strive to help others grow and develop
- Build Community –cultivate and environment where relationships are fostered
I think Larry succinctly described the kind of leader Jesus was!
Ultimately, it’s not what a leader accomplishes that matters. It’s how they get it done and servant leadership is done well, is contagious!
Take the next step! Ask your team (work team, ministry team, clients, or your own family) “How can I help”? Now they might be surprised at first, because servant leadership is unexpected; even radical taking the typical concept of a leader and completely flipping that philosophy upside down.
A true servant leader is NOT all about me, me, me! No, they are all about others and creating a culture where everyone thrives! Imagine how that kind of approach would make a world of difference in your “team” or organization!