Anyone who has held multiple jobs in their professional life has likely also been under the guidance of several different kinds of leaders. I have served as a leader and have served under leaders throughout my career. Some have been good while some plainly, have not. Good, healthy leaders do certainly exist and it is important that the characteristics of these quality leaders be known.
I have learned just as much from the mistakes of those around me, as well as my own, as I have from the successes. I have also had the privilege of working for some incredible servant leaders as well. The most efficient way to discover what you are made of as a professional or as a leader, is to study the art of service and mimic the example. Discovering what a servant leader looks like and implementing those methods into your own life will not only have a profound impact on your career and colleagues, but it will have a profound impact on your life. Below are some principles that work which have been derived not from a book or concept, but from experience.
A servant leader is one who focuses themselves on serving others and then persuade others to adhere to and maintain their thought process and values. If the people in your life are more than dollar signs or a means to and end, but rather as an individual opportunity to serve, then you are displaying servant leadership. IF you partner with co-workers and set synergistic goals which go beyond helping only yourself but others as well, you foster characteristics of servant leadership. If you see others as a means to serve you, then you are not a servant leader. I would call you a manager. If you view your role as a leader to empower others to become better at what they do, to achieve greater levels of skill and ability, and become better, more productive people in the process, then you are a servant leader.
Servant leadership fosters an atmosphere of teamwork. This is a natural byproduct of servant leadership since the focus of this style of leadership is others. The typical leader instinctively uses words like “me” and “I” while the servant leader naturally use s words like “us” and “we”. Teamwork is achieved because everyone feels a part of the process and not just a number completing a series of menial tasks. A servant leader naturally fosters a servant mentality in the overall team and as a result, productivity and creativity increases because there is an absence of competition. Rather than competition, there is a sense of ownership in each individual. When people can feel trusted to put their own hands on something, they will be much more willing to invest. And because they have invested themselves, it is to their further benefit to help others succeed in a lie manner. People thrive in a team atmosphere. The added bonus is that if something fails, the whole team shares the responsibility rather than just one person. This also adds a sense of safety in the group and gives people more incentive to contribute. When the team succeeds everyone shares in the glory rather than the leader getting the sole credit for the work.
When people truly believe that they are more valuable than the work they do, they will always make sure the job gets done. When people feel valued they take value in what they do. You won’t have to cite warnings or give passive aggressive memos to make a point of correction. Instead you would be dropping them notes of thanks for being such great team members. If you lead with investing in your people, they will invest in you and the work which your business does. If you fail to give people a sense of value then they won’t see any value in you as a leader. Not only attitude reflects leadership; it is often also character that reflects leadership.
All leaders will ultimately reap what they sow. If you serve others, they will serve you. If you provide encouragement, generosity and kindness into those under you then you will receive the same back. If you are self-serving, rude, condescending, impatient and demanding then you will be treated likewise.
Nothing fosters trust more quickly or more efficiently than a servant’s attitude. This is because people know you care about them and have their best interest at heart even when you have to deal with problems. They can trust you. Nothing fosters distrust, backbiting, and fear like working for a demanding, uncaring and self-righteous leader. This atmosphere requires people work with a mentality of self-protection which paralyzes efficiency and morale. It stifles growth and creativity and it disassembles the team.
A good leader realizes that no matter how talented he is, he can’t go very far without others. I have learned that I am limited by my talent and ability. But combined with the talent, creativity and potential of a team the sky is the limit. This is true, not just for the leader, but for every member of the team. The typical leader hires people which he perceives to be below his level because he feels his leadership or skills may come into question otherwise. A great leader surrounds himself with the best talent he can find so that he can maximize the potential of the team, including himself.
Be a servant leader. It works and it is so much more enjoyable. There is a catch though. To be a servant leader means you must give up the most important thing in your life right now – you. You have to let go of your self-importance. You have to give up a lot of personal “rights” you used to think you were entitled to. If you can do that, you are well on your way to becoming a servant leader.