7 Steps to Become a Servant Leader
The world is made up of two kinds of people- people who are only focused on themselves and people who help others to grow as well as themselves. In the field of work, most often than not, we find our bosses to be falling under the first category. “Cause I said so”, “It’s my way or the highway” and similar phrases are generally expected from them.
If you have ever found your boss getting all the credit for your work (which you probably had done without any help from him/ her) during performance appraisal or promotions, you know what I am talking about. Persecuted like this over a period of time from the very beginning of your career, you need to ensure that your subordinates do not suffer the same when you reach that position. You need to be a servant leader. Before digging deep into how to become one, let us first understand what servant leadership is.
"The first and most important choice a leader makes is the choice to serve, without which one's capacity to lead is severely limited." -Robert Greenleaf
Servant leadership is a thousand-year-old rooted philosophy whose examples date back to the 4th century B.C. in China and India. We can find examples in the Islam texts and the New Testament as well. The term servant leadership was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in the year 1970. It is about the Servant being the Leader who focuses on the needs of the others before thinking about his own.
A servant leader would share power, treat employees with respect, consider their interests, weaknesses and needs, actively listen to employees, and help them improve and perform to their maximum potential. In this philosophy, the power does not reside with only the one at the top.
“The heart of the leader is manifested through service to others.” - Artika Tyner
Now that you understand what it is about, here are 7 steps to help you to become a servant leader.
1. Upend The Pyramid
First, look at your organization chart. Is it a pyramid with you at the top? There lies the problem. With such an organization structure, the flow of information and transparent communication between the top to the bottom level becomes difficult. The root level employees are not able to see the bigger picture and toil at their tasks just because they had been asked to do so. The top management does not get proper information from the root level to make necessary adjustments to resolve any issues and make the business more successful.
Additionally, it brings into your organization the culture of the Boss and his Lackey where the employees focus more on pleasing the boss (unnecessary praising, saying yes to everything the Boss says, even buy groceries for the Boss’s house if need be) instead of focusing on the growth of the company. The Boss of course favours that particular employee above the others who feel discontent and lose interest to perform well. To avoid such situations, have a flatter organization structure by having a team at the top management to allow more openness in discussing issues and sharing opinions though the final decision lies with the CEO.
2. Mentor Your Employees
Ensure to build a safe place for your employees. Cultivate the culture of trust with no gossip or judgement, where employees can feel free to talk about their weaknesses and seek help to improve. The second step is to make sure that they have the training required to perform their jobs successfully. Review their performance regularly and coach them in areas where improvement is required. Give them feedback- positive first and then the negative.
Ensure to provide constructive criticism to your employees so that they do not feel disheartened and instead feel encouraged to improve. Do not only focus on what your employees lack, focus on their strengths and interests and help them hone those skill sets to better their career and the company’s success. Guide them on their development path by adding your input to their improvement plan. Share your power and deputize others to lead. Everyone’s pressed for time. Delegating important tasks and decision-making not only saves your time but also makes the employee feel a part of the family and help them strive to perform better.
Seek and value the opinion of your employees. Do not impose your decisions on them. Persuade, do not command. Have brainstorming sessions and invite your team members to contribute. Ask what they feel would improve your company (have an idea box) and give them support to implement the good ideas. They might come up with some innovative ideas that you may not have thought of.
4. Provide Technology Improvements
Provide your team the technical support to do their work more efficiently and to bring their ideas to fruition. Have cutting edge technology in your company to keep improving the quantity and quality of your work.
5. Help Employees With Life Issues
Do not focus on only training regarding work. Pay attention to your employees’ quality of life as well. Have a gym that they can access after working hours, or a house loan plan or a session on public speaking. It can be anything that shows that you care for them. The more employees feel this, the more they will strive to work hard to make your company a success. They would do it on their own will and not just because you are paying them. Make sure to offer a fair, living salary that will make it worth their time. This way you will be able to retain your valued employees.
6. Respect, Encourage And Appreciate
Treat your employees with respect and you will find them feeling happy to work for you. Encourage them to do better at each step. Appreciate whenever they do something right. Promote them if you deem them worthy. Give them the opportunity of growth and you will find them working harder willingly.
7. Share Your Dreams
Be transparent. Let everyone in your company know what the ultimate goal is. Know and care about their dreams and show them how their individual dreams align with yours. Employees will work harder to fulfil your vision if they know that their dream is getting fulfilled simultaneously.
“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”- William Pollard
Servant leadership helps build better organizations and enrich the lives of individuals.
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