Servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the needs of those being led above the self-interest of the leader. Servant leadership promotes development of people, practice of authenticity, and community-building.
Vision and direction form a significant aspect of servant leadership. The fact that vision and plans come from the top of a hierarchy does not mean that other members cannot participate in forming the organization’s vision. It is argued that once people know where they are heading, the servant leader should turn the pyramid hierarchy upside down by serving others and helping them implement the vision. Key leadership skills of servant leaders include the ability to open lines of communication to all members, listen to comments of others, use persuasions rather than positional authority, and conceptualize organization vision while balancing day-to-day focus.
People in an organization should not be used for the purposes of leaders, but rather valued and developed. Workers have an innate ability to know whether they are being valued and trusted. Leaders who value their people focus on the needs of others and how they can be met. Believing in and trusting their people enables servant leaders to find the true value in others. Servant leaders also listen to others. Listening non-judgmentally is one of the best ways a leader can show people that they are valued.
Servant leaders believe that workers have both present and future value. In healthy organizations, leaders consider it their responsibility to nurture others toward achieving their full potential. People in any organization can be developed through a dynamic learning environment where the mistakes of others lead to new insight and are viewed as learning opportunities.
Servant leaders also join in the learning rather than settling for the status quo. They develop others by modeling appropriate behaviors. In addition, people can be developed through encouragement and other forms of affirmation. Servant leaders should recognize accomplishments and celebrate creativity.
Building a community
Servant leaders value the different ways in which people work together. It is the duty of a servant leader to build a compelling shared vision instead of just getting the job done. They are concerned with relationships and understand that people are more influenced by the quality of relationships than the accomplishment of tasks. Healthy organizations do not encourage lone rangers; they encourage team accomplishments that result in friendships.
Allowing natural competitiveness does reflect servant leadership, but leaders should model dynamic collaborative work partnership. It is also crucial for leaders to celebrate and respect differences in gender, culture, ethnicity, and age, and encourage all workers to feel that they are valued team members.
Organizational visions and plans do not belong only to the leader. A clear shared vision draws resources, abilities, and skills toward the future. Shared power in an organization represents an ability to allocate resources and make important decisions. It empowers people to work toward the mission of the organization and the good of the group.
Servant leadership is not about status, prestige, or position; hence servant leaders are likely to resist special privileges. They are aware that all people in an organization need to be recognized and affirmed for their contributions and value to the success of the whole.
In summary, effective servant leaders should promote development of people, practice authenticity, and build community within their organization.
For more leadership best practices, see An Easy Recipe For Healthy Leadership.