What Defines a Servant Leader? Here’s a Different Perspective.

servant leader

When asked what type of leadership they strive for, many leaders I’ve talked to quickly reply, “I like a servant leader.”  

My intention is not to outline any argument against the philosophy of servant leadership in its holistic spirit. Instead, we can best outline the definition of what servant leadership means and some of the qualifications and characteristics of it.  

A Servant Leader is Someone Who…

Some say a servant leader is a person who is willing to get into the trenches with their team to show that they are a partner to them and willing to do the same teamwork, servant leaderthings they do toward the company’s goals.  

To others, it’s a person who is supportive – a leader who is willing to give and provide whatever they can to assist the team while they pursue the goal.   

Still others believe that it’s important that the team see them work hard, work the same hours, and always be completely available to them to reflect value and a servant-style accessibility.  

While these descriptions can certainly be admirable traits and may also be appreciated by teams and employees, I want to offer you another perspective.  

Even When You Have the Ability and Experience…

You have the position in leadership or management that you have because of your skills, wisdom, and experience – and for what you bring to the table.    

Why were you chosen for this position? What did you do to earn it? What are your skills and abilities that the company recognized, valued, compensated, and invested in you to do? 

If the best use of your skills, experience and wisdom was to be in the trenches doing exactly what your team is doing, you are not bringing all your skills, experience, wisdom, and ability to guide you to best serve them or the company towards goals.  

If you’re in the trenches, doing what the team is doing, are you truly providing the company with everything that it has invested in you and has asked you to bring? Are you acting in the team’s best interests  

When you are confident in the value that you bring, you recognize how much impact you can have on your team and the ability to serve them and the company in greater ways. The opportunities and potential can be so much more impactful!  

An Accidental Opportunity Opens Up New Ways to Lead  

Servant LeaderWhen I first became a manager over a team of 22 people, I was young with far less experience than many on my team.   

Each person on the team had a specific product and skill set and, with 22 on my team, it would have been impossible to do the job of each of them. Also, each person was compensated only for what they did, so doing their job for them was not doing them any financial favors.   

This was an accidental opportunity for me to learn how to be a servant leader in a new and different way. While I had far less experience than my team, I brought my own set of skills that helped to get the job done…

  • Efficiency: Each time I talked to one of my team members during a scheduled meeting, I had a specific agenda to discuss. Meetings were extremely efficient and allowed my team to do their jobs. Being efficient was probably the thing they most appreciated from me.
  • Clear the Path: I always asked what was preventing them from getting their job done and accomplishing their goals. Previously, this team did not have a manager or leader who asked them and even if they occasionally did, it was rare that they saw any action in response to their replies.  If I can do something to help clear the path, reduce the obstacles, minimize the challenges or pitfalls, I am helping them in ways they may not be in the position to do themselves. 
  • Honesty: If you want to build trust, live up to what you say you will do. Be honest about what you can and can’t do – or if you aren’t sure at all. I always wrote down everything they suggested or requested. I asked more questions to understand them. If I could solve it immediately, I did. If I was not sure I could solve it, I let them know that too. Either way, I told them they would hear from me. 

“The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.” ― J. Carla Nortcutt

Listening Can Make You a Great Servant Leader

servant leader

Even when I couldn’t change anything about something they requested, they knew they were heard They had a chance to understand why some things were the way they were, and it gave us an opportunity to explore other ways to resolve their obstacles.   

  • Developing Your People:  When there is an opportunity to train, educate or help someone grow and learn more, you have served them in ways they can never account for. Developing your people and your team is the best way you can serve and the best way that your company can meet its goals.
  • Listen:  Always ask – and listen to their needs. Many times, what you will find is that the best way you can serve them is to help them get organized. Learning to prioritize, manage their time and allowing opportunities for delegation will help your team and support them in ways they will appreciate. 

Never underestimate how much your perspectives, experiences and wisdom can impact your team in truly meaningful ways.  

It’s Not Just About Being in the Trenches 

 It is my belief that the best way to serve your team is to be a role model for the above qualities. 

 You will have a following of highly qualified employees who will want to work for you wherever you go at any time. Your team will get to do the job they are hired to do at their highest level of peak performance. 

 You help them: 

  • Resolve the challenges and obstacles in their way, helping them to get their job done. 
  • Clear the path ahead of them, so they can have a smoother trek along the way 
  • By supporting their day, their goals, and their futures as they work to achieve.  

 When you have a servant’s heart as a leader, you have an opportunity to show up as a leader that your team will appreciate and want to follow.  

 We’re here at Strive Coaching Studio to help you be the best leader you can be! Contact us for an individual consultation at: https://strivecoachingstudio.com/contact/  

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