There is no denying the fact that leadership is one of the most significant and challenging factors for entrepreneurs to deal with and becomes even more decisive as the business starts to grow. The challenges pertaining to leadership start the moment you employ your first staff member and grows exponentially with each addition to the team. Therefore, we have decided to bring our reader a series of ways to help adopt the most effective leadership approach to boost the success. Here’s part one of our series of three:
Servant leadership is essentially one of the most effective models for leadership, especially for a difficult time period. The model is derived from Robert K. Greenleaf’s philosophy that a leader should put others’ needs above his. In this article, we’ll briefly discuss some of the most pivotal principles of the servant leadership model for boosting a business and analyze how companies have been using these principles to accelerate their productivity and achieve their goals.
According to the servant leadership model, communication embroils listening, empathy, and healing. Servant leaders are expected to pay attention to what others are saying or not saying (e.g. notice their body language) by improving their listening skills. It doesn’t only include listening receptively to others but also to what one’s inner voice is communicating. Similarly, servant leaders need to be empathetic and open-minded to each team member. They must give the benefit of doubt to their team members and understand their unique perspectives. Healing involves the wholeness of the employees, which means showing them mental support and create a healthy work environment. A servant leader should strive to resolve any conflict or issue through discussion, mentoring, or using a relationship-oriented leadership approach. By means of good communication, you can instill trust and loyalty in your team members.
The CEO of TD Industries, Harold MacDowell, is committed to executing the servant leadership style at his organization. Harold says that a servant leader must have the ability to listen to others and empathize with them along with setting clear expectations from them. He also believes that by work environment can be improved by eliminating fear. This helps everyone to share their ideas, questions, and feedback openly, leading to better outcomes.
Satya Nadella, the third CEO of Microsoft, also advocates the importance of empathy in effective leadership and thinks that empathy will be cherished more than ever in the field of technology in the coming years.
Stewardship refers to an immense commitment of the entrepreneurs or managers to cater to the needs of others first. A servant leader always thinks about his employees and their need before thinking about how he is going to achieve his goals. This creates a seemly environment where they can focus and strive to meet the organization’s need as there are no distractions.
FedEx is the world’s largest express shipping corporation that believes in the people-first approach. The philosophy behind their People-Service-Profit notion is based on creating a positive working environment for the team, leading to improved service quality and hence, more satisfied customers. FedEx has received many awards for the best employers due to their servant leadership methodology.
One of the key factors that separate servant leadership from other styles of leadership is the use of persuasion instead of typical authoritarian or delegation leadership approaches. Servant leaders aim at convincing their employees to achieve a particular goal rather than barking orders on them or using authority to coerce them into following them.
Servant leadership at Southwest Airlines has three core values that make their service exception. The first is “A warrior spirit”, which involves employees’ commitment to delivering what the company stands for fearlessly and be sensitive to the needs of each customer. The second, A servant’s heart tells the employees to treat all the customers with respect and compassion and serve them openly. The third is “A fun-luving attitude” reminds the team members to adopt a fun and luving (as they spell it) attitude and not to take themselves too seriously. These values are shaped to take the employees’ personal beliefs and essences into account to motivate them.
As a servant leader, you must have the knack to conceptualize and know how to dream. You should be able to analyze and perceive a problem or organization in an abstract and open-minded manner beyond your routine realities. The ability to recognize potential in people or situations is also central to effective servant leadership. However, it’s important to maintain a balance between conceptualization and your focus on day-to-day realities at work. A servant leader can pass on this skill to other people in his team, helping them to conceive and perform better in the future.
Cheryl Bachelder, the CEO of Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, took over during a troubled time when the company was observing inconsistent sales results and the management was having a dispute with one of its key stakeholders, the franchise owners running the restaurants. Cheryl decided to implement the tenets of servant leadership and put the needs of franchise owners first rather than dismissing them as inconveniences like many others at the headquarters did. She presented her ideas in front of franchise owners, welcomed their feedback, and worked in collaboration with them to resolve the disputes. This resulted in sustained sales and growth along with a mutually collaborative relationship between the organization and the franchise owners. She saw the potential in the situation and thought of different possibilities than usual, which resulted to be beneficial for the company as well as the people.
5 Building Community
Another important aspect of servant leadership stance is thinking beyond your own dreams and goals as well as the company’s objectives. It also includes creating and supporting an effective community within the organization. An effective servant leader strives to recognize and implement ways to build a social and task-oriented community of people in the organization. Such communities lead to longer-lasting and genuine relationships within the organization.
Chick-fil-A is a great example of businesses that use servant leadership and seek to build something bigger than themselves. The organization holds a principle that puts people above everything and nurtures a culture that isn’t just lived by the Chick-fil-A workers but also by their guests and partners. The process of recruiting employees is based on finding people who fit in and identify with the culture of the company to keep it compelling and lasting. Character, chemistry, and competency are three tenets that help during the selection process. Moreover, the organization nurtures its employees and, therefore, their culture, by being honest with them with respect to their performance, output, and expectation of the organization.
6 Commitment to People’s Growth
While the aim of most businesses is organizational growth and achieving their goals, the main objective of servant leadership is the growth of people. It is fundamental to servant leadership that you are committed to the personal and professional growth of your employees. It’s not about whether the goal has been achieved or not, but have people developed through this and if it has added any value to their growth. A servant leader works to ensure his staff’s wellbeing, understands their training needs, and learns about their skills to develop a content and evolving workforce.
Marriot International, a leading hotel industry, is known for its unmatched services. You might be surprised by the fact that many of their general managers started working as hourly workers at first. This shows that they are not only hiring people but also working on training them to grow in the organization and embrace new roles. The extensive training program of Marriot involves a 90 days training session for new employees that prepares them for the job. Moreover, for the first 30 days of their job, a mentor is allocated to cater to the on-job training requirements of the workers and answer their questions. The time and money invested during this process show that the company cares about the success and welfare of their employees.
Numerous successful companies around the globe are embracing the strategies of servant leadership, helping them to enhance workforce productivity, provide better customer services, and generate increased company profit.
However, it’s important to remember that being a servant leader only requires you to focus on and prioritize your people’s needs, not their feeling. You can still make unpopular decisions needed for the betterment of your company and people. Also, you can give negative feedback to your team members to help them learn and improve.
So, if you’re looking for ways to change your leadership dynamic, consider practicing the above-mentioned keys of servant leadership in various contexts in your workplace. You can start by supporting and empowering your team, helping your people grow, improving communication with them, looking after their personal and professional needs, providing an appropriate work environment, building your corporate culture, and dreaming beyond your everyday work realities.