Servant Leadership and Empowering Employee Success
A term coined in the 1970’s, ‘servant leadership’ describes a person-focused style of leadership. A servant leader will put their employees and their community first. Rather than placing their focus on personal success, they strive to empower team success, putting the needs of their employees before their own. While this style of leadership can feel extreme, studies show that it can be very successful. Large corporations, like Starbucks and Southwest, encourage their management teams to take a servant leadership approach.
Servant leadership is revolutionary in its focus on a serve-first mindset, where management is consistently doing their best to serve their employees before themselves. While traditional management strategy relies on exercising power and maintaining authority, servant leaders consistently seek out development opportunities for their team. This strategy opens the door for creativity, innovation, and increased employee sense of purpose. Research shows that employers who take this approach are well rewarded by active, innovative, and loyal employees.
Servant leadership not as a trait, but a process. It is something that is founded in a manager’s desire to improve and empower their employees and the organization. This begins by asking employees for opinions, feedback and insights on a regular basis. Understanding employee needs and encouraging their involvement should be the cornerstone of your management style, if you are to be a successful servant leader.
In addition to asking for employee involvement, servant leadership takes empathy and emotional intelligence. Servant leaders exercise skills like active listening and empathy to understand and act on employee and organizational needs, improving morale and productivity in the process. In addition, servant leaders are not afraid to give up power. They are not just willing, but happy to delegate duties, distributing the responsibility and success across their team. Not only is it important to empower your employees as a servant leader, but also to have the ability to put them first, setting aside your own personal success in order to give them a chance to learn, grow, and succeed.
Some leaders are naturally more inclined to become servant leaders. That said, this process can be learned by anyone in a leadership position. The emphasis is on developing soft skills, such as communication skill, active listening and emotional intelligence. The key is finding ways to show your employees you care, to empower them and increase their individual and collective success. Putting your employees first and exercising your ability to advocate, encourage and empower will ultimately spell success for you, your team, and your organization.