In the business world, the term servant Leadership gets thrown around too much. It’s been happening for so long that I’m not sure many people understand what it means. It becomes a buzzword, something people throw out hoping to get the group excited. I get really annoyed by that because there’s a lot of good we could do if the world had more servant leaders.
As I sit here writing about servant leadership, I mentally go through a long list of leaders who’ve impacted my life. These brave men and women chose to work with me (which is a challenge), and they decided to put the needs of the team ahead of themselves. In fact, this reminds me of a famous quote, and I don’t often quote Star Trek;
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Spock From Star Trek
Servant leadership isn’t being focused on a job, instead, it’s about focusing on a team. Servant Leaders see their job as facilitating and helping the team in whatever job they deem necessary.
What Is Meant By Servant Leadership?
A servant leader is someone that takes on any job to help push the team forward. This could mean the worst or most time-consuming jobs. This is to help facilitate the growth and advancement of the team. They serve the team and through that help them stay focused.
There are many different ways to become a servant leader, and some of the time you don’t have to actually be christened as, “the leader.” This is the heart of servant leadership. You’re there to help the people around you become the best they can be.
These Leaders Will Delegate Authority Helping Others Grow As Leaders
They Follow Up On Problems And Help With Solutions
They Value Diverse Opinions And Use The Teams Help To Sift Through Them For The Correct Solution
Servant Leadership Facilitates Trust
To facilitate and grow trust a leader must give respect and eventually earn respect from their team. This doesn’t mean they have to become pushovers, but their team needs to believe the leader is in their best interests.
You can’t fake building trust, and if you break it you’ve shot yourself in the foot. Many people don’t understand this, they get excited because they’re put in charge of a group, and they forget they’re leading people.
I remember taking over a management position in a company I used to work for. I knew upon walking in that my new crew had a morale and trust problem. Their previous manager would pit them against each other, and motivate them through lies and aggravation. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.
The first thing I did was call a meeting with my new team. I introduced myself and told them what I expect from me and them. What followed was a long conversation about how I lead, and what I expect from all of us.
I didn’t stop there, and if I would’ve there would’ve been no respect earned. Instead, I showed up at 4 am when the first two members of my crew arrived. Coffee in hand I jumped into getting our department ready. I asked questions, I encouraged them, and by the end of the day (it worked fast that day) the morale was lifted.
Time Shouldn’t Be Your Focus
Things worked that fast for most of my team. However, there were two members that took a while to warm up to me. I assumed they had worked with the previous manager longer, and were waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I proved them wrong and I’m glad I did. After a few months, they became my best workers.
You’ll develop trust fast, by working side by side with them, encouraging them, and learning from them.
Mistakes Servant Leadership Can Bring About
A mistake servant leadership can bring about is thinking their position is too high for them to learn from their team. On the contrary, if your team is in the trenches, they’ll know more about specific topics that you never will. However, as the leader, you’ll know more about everything as a whole.
Servant Leadership is About Developing And Growing The Team
There’s a pride that comes with leadership, and with servant leadership, you’ve gotta let go. Pride will only hold you back, and it has no place where you and your team are going. I’ve written a little bit about pride. If it’s a subject that interests you, I titled it “Pride Comes Before The Fall.”
A servant leader seeks out team members with skills and abilities they can help develop. To put this into action, I like to delegate authority and work alongside my team members. This helps me encourage and guide them. Sometimes I can help them come up with faster ways to do things, and they’ll give me suggestions just as well.
Open and honest communication can get you very far.
Servant Leadership Means Delegating Authority
One of my favorite things to do as a leader is to trust my team. It makes the job so much easier. Not only do I delegate, but I’ll also have everyone cross trained in my position.
You see I’m not too proud to realize I’m expendable. I like the idea of training myself out of a job. When I was in college, I worked as a valet and made good money doing it.
Most of the time I ran shifts and was in charge of 4-6 valets and maybe 100-150 cars depending on the day. Most of the time things went smoothly, it was amazing. My crew and I would flow together pretty easily and if I was pulled away to deal with an issue, like an irate client. My team would flex and expand doing my job as well.
We all knew the next person’s job, and they all knew mine. We did this and watched out for each other because we’d built a relationship of respect, and trust. It probably helped that we had some downtime every day and joked around a lot.
My crew was the best, and that 4 man team did the work of 8.
They Follow Up On Problems And Help With Solutions
When a leader delegates a problem or a fix that doesn’t mean it should never be revisited. The buck stops with them, and it’s good to know how your issue is going to be resolved.
When you walk into that situation, ask a lot of questions, and ask why they made their choices. You can learn something from your team, and sometimes they’ll learn something.
Have you ever believed something until you said it out loud to a parent, teacher, or friend? Only to realize you were an idiot? (in that instance) Sometimes that’s what happens, and then the team can head back to the drawing board.
Communication will give you creativity.
They Value Diverse Opinions And Use Them To Find Solutions
During the times when you do over-fixes to your problems, you’ll be getting some crazy ideas. Never say they’re stupid, at least try not to say never, because there are some stupid ideas.
However, when people give their opinion it means they trust you, and even dumb opinions can help lead you to a correct solution. In my meetings, I love throwing out the dumbest ideas, although sometimes I have to reign myself in because I’ll derail the meeting. However, I know my ideas have helped with some creative problem-solving.
Even when you have no responsibility, you can still influence the people around you. The people in management positions have an easier opportunity to lead, but they have to make that choice, just like you do.
Servant leadership is taking the abilities of encouragement and directing people toward being the best they can be. When you decide to serve the team, you’re also letting go of yourself a little bit.
You’re surrendering pride, and the ability to take credit. When you succeed it isn’t your success, it’s the entire team’s success.
Expect that one lazy person who never does their job right?
What Is The Mindset Of Servant Leadership?
The mindset of a servant leader is to build the team. Nothing is beneath them. As a matter of principle, they will take on the hardest tasks. For example, a toilet needs to be scrubbed. They will be the first ones to take on the task.
The Mindset Of Servant Leadership Contains;
“How can I improve the people around me?”
Is This Team Firing On All Cylinders?
What Is Slowing Us Down? And How Can I Fix The Issue?
Your goal as a servant leader is to share the vision, get the team to believe it, and remove obstacles in their way.
Sterling grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. As a kid he loved skateboarding but mostly did street riding. He injured his ankle badly when he dropped into his first half pipe. His skateboarding slowed down after that, but he still loved the sport.
While in his 20's he needed to make a change, so he did some world traveling with a motivational speaking group. Through it all, he visited 46 states and 3 continents and eventually lived in Mississippi. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through the state. He jumped into the fray, helping mobilize support for the evacuees of New Orleans & The Gulf Coast. During the aftermath he helped run a shelter and drove food & medical supplies to affected areas by truck. Currently he lives in Minneapolis, runs his snowboard shop, and shreds Vail Whenever he can.