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Understanding The Basics and Benefits of Servant Leadership

By Lucy Grimwade
March 13, 2024

The ‘term’ servant leadership might catch you off guard, as for some, it wasn’t a leadership style commonly talked about in the workplace pre-pandemic.

However, the era of the post-pandemic workplace – servant leadership has become a recognised approach that has gained significant traction over the last few years. The model prioritises the wellbeing and growth of team members above all else. It’s not about bosses giving orders from above, but rather about leaders rolling up their sleeves, serving their teams, and empowering them to reach their full potential.

At its core, servant leadership is about flipping the traditional hierarchy on its head (see image). Instead of leaders at the top dictating commands, they stand at the bottom, supporting their team members in achieving success. This approach creates a culture of trust, collaboration, and enablement within an organisation.

Traditional Leadership Model vs. Servant Leadership Model

So, what does servant leadership look like in practice?

Imagine a leader who actively listens to their team members, values their input, and works alongside them to achieve common goals. They don’t micromanage or hoard power; instead, they delegate authority and provide the necessary resources for their team to thrive. Moreover, they prioritise the personal and professional development of their employees, recognising that their success is intertwined with the success of the organisation as a whole.

One hot take on servant leadership has branded leaders as pushover or allowing chaos to reign unchecked. However, this is quite the opposite. Servant leadership is about setting clear expectations, holding team members accountable, and providing guidance and support when needed. Servant leaders understand that they must strike a balance between serving their team and ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently and effectively.

The impact of servant leadership on company culture cannot be overstated. When employees feel valued, respected, and supported, they are more engaged, motivated, and committed to their work. This leads to higher levels of productivity, creativity, and innovation within the organisation. Additionally, servant leadership cultivates a sense of loyalty and trust among team members, reducing turnover rates and attracting top talent.

Moreover, servant leadership is not just beneficial for employees; it also supports leaders in their own development. By focusing on the needs of others, leaders hone their empathy, communication, and interpersonal skills. They learn to lead by example, inspire trust and loyalty, and cultivate a positive work environment. Ultimately, servant leadership helps leaders become more effective, influential, and respected within their organisations.

It’s essential to recognise that servant leadership is not a one-size-fits-all solution. While it may be highly effective in some contexts, it may not be suitable for every situation or organisational culture. For example, in industries where quick decision-making and assertive leadership are critical, a more directive approach may be necessary.

Servant leadership offers a compelling alternative to traditional leadership styles, emphasising empathy, empowerment, and collaboration. By prioritising the wellbeing and growth of team members, servant leaders create a culture of trust, engagement, and innovation within their organisations.

While it may not be suitable for every situation, servant leadership has the potential to transform both company culture and the lives of those it serves.

Lucy Grimwade is an Improvement & Leadership Consultant as well as an Accredited ICF Coach. She has worked in global businesses and multiple industries including Banking, Retail and Telco where she has led cross-functional & international teams as well as worked on multi-million £$€ and NDA projects. In 2023, Lucy moved into the freelance space – giving her time to work on co-authoring her first book as well as being involved in various thought leadership projects.

Connect with Lucy here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucygrimwade/

Browse IIL’s Leadership Courses here!

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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