By Jorgelina Bross-Puglisi
May 10, 2023
In his essay, The Servant as a Leader, Robert K. Greenleaf said: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first.”
Promoting servant leadership can lead to improved outcomes for the organization and its stakeholders, as we can see from major companies such as The Container Store, Coca Cola and Starbucks who are embracing servant leadership.
There are undoubtedly good reasons why promoting servant leadership can be beneficial:
- Promotes team engagement: Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their team members and encourage them to grow and develop. This approach promotes a sense of belonging and engagement among team members, leading to higher levels of satisfaction and productivity.
- Encourages collaboration and innovation: Servant leaders create an environment of trust and respect, where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and working collaboratively. This approach can lead to more innovative solutions and better outcomes for the organization.
- Improves employee retention: Servant leaders focus on the needs of their team members and provide support and guidance to help them achieve their goals. This approach can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.
- Builds stronger relationships: Servant leaders prioritize active listening and empathy, which can help build stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders. This approach can lead to more effective communication and better decision-making.
- Promotes ethical behavior: Servant leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members and the larger community over personal gain or power. This approach promotes ethical behavior and can help prevent unethical practices such as discrimination, harassment, or exploitation.
And all this sounds very good if one can be a leader and a servant at the same time. But isn’t this an oxymoron? Can this be achieved?
Actually yes, it is possible to lead and be a servant at the same time. Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy that emphasizes serving the needs of the team members and the larger community over personal gain or power. This approach to leadership is rooted in empathy, collaboration, and inclusivity, and it can be highly effective in promoting trust, engagement, and performance within teams.
A servant leader puts the needs of the team members first and seeks to empower them to achieve their goals. This requires a strong commitment to active listening, empathy, and understanding the needs and concerns of team members. A servant leader also promotes a collaborative and inclusive environment that encourages creativity, innovation, and continuous learning.
At the same time, a servant leader must also provide direction, guidance, and support to the team members to help them achieve their goals. This requires a strong understanding of the team’s objectives, the resources available, and the skills and talents of individual team members. A servant leader must also be able to make difficult decisions, provide constructive feedback, and hold team members accountable when necessary.
A servant leader is not a “weaker” leader, but a leader that prioritizes serving the needs of the team members while also providing direction, guidance, and support to help them achieve their goals. This approach to leadership can promote trust, engagement, and performance within teams and can be highly effective in a variety of settings.
So why not unlock the servant leader inside of us and let our teams thrive!
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”— Lao Tzu.
About the Author
Trainer & Consultant
International Institute for Learning (IIL)
Jorgelina is an accomplished industrial engineer, project manager, and consultant with solid international experience in various industries. She has conducted numerous projects in more than 15 countries in Latin and North America, Europe, and Asia. She is a results-oriented leader, with excellent communication and facilitation skills.
Jorgelina is a Presenter in this year’s Agile and Scrum Online Conference! Check out her presentation details here.
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.