The Manager as Servant Leader

Successful leaders today need to behave differently from the conventional leadership traditions that they were used to. It is strongly believed that now, one needs to serve first before he or she can be served.

Servant leadership, a term coined and defined by Robert Greenleaf, is an approach to leadership development. He explains that the servant leader is being servant first, which begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. According to him, servant leadership addresses the following questions:

  • Do others around the servant leader become wiser, freer, more autonomous, healthier and better able for themselves to become servants?
  • Will the least privileged of the society benefit or at least, no further deprived?

Concept and Impact of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is an approach to leadership that puts serving others – including employees, customers and community, as the number one priority. Servant leadership emphasizes increased service to others, a holistic approach to work, promoting a sense of community, and the sharing of power in decision making. In short, servant leadership focuses on follower needs more than organisational outcomes.

Many world-class organisations have adopted servant-leadership as a guiding philosophy or as a foundation or as a foundation of their mission statement. Among these are TD Industries, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, and the The Men’s Wearhouse. These high-performance organisations teach and practice servant leadership. For individuals, servant leadership offers a means to personal growth – spiritually, professionally, emotionally and intellectually.

Characteristics of Servant Leadership
Are you a servant leader? According to Barbuto & Wheeler, there are 11 characteristics that describe a servant leader, namely:

Calling. Do people believe that you are willing to sacrifice self-interest for the good of the group? Servant leaders have a natural desire to serve others. This notion of having a calling to serve others is deeply rooted and value-based. Servant leaders have a desire to make a difference for other people and will pursue opportunities to impact others’ lives. A servant leader is willing to sacrifice self-interests for the sake of the others.

Listening. Do people believe that you want to hear their ideas and will value them? Servant leaders are excellent listeners. They are receptive and genuinely interested in the views and input of others. People instinctively understand that servant leaders want them to share their ideas and that these ideas will be valued.

Empathy. Do people believe that you will understand what is happening in their lives and how it affects them? Servant leaders can walk in the shoes of others. They understand and emphatize with the situations and problems of others.

Healing. Do people come to you when the chips are down or when something traumatic has happened in theirs lives? The ability to create an environment that encourages emotional mending is crucial for those who want to become great servant leaders. They are good at facilitating the healing process and others gravitate toward them when emotional needs arise.

Awareness. Do others believe you have a strong awareness for what is going on? Servant leaders have a keen sense for what is going on? Servant leaders have a keen sense for what is happening around
them. They are always looking for cues from the environment to inform their opinions and decisions. They know what’s going on and will rarely be fooled by appearances.

Persuasion. Do others follow your requests because they “want to” or because they believe they “have to”? Servant leaders seek to convince others to do things rather than relying on formal authority. They are naturally very persuasive and offer compelling reasons when they make requests. They never force others to do things.

Conceptualization. Do others communicate their ideas and vision for the organisation when you are around? Those who want to be great servant leader must develop an environment that fosters conceptualization.

Foresight. Do others have confidence in your ability to anticipate the future and its consequences? Servant leaders have an uncanny ability to anticipate future events. This is not to say they are psychic or always right, but they are adept at picking up patters in the environment and seeing what the future will bring. They usually anticipate consequences of decisions with great accuracy.

Stewardship. Do others believe you are preparing the organisation to make a positive difference in the world? Servant leaders are often characterized by a strong sense of stewardship. A steward in an organisation is responsible for preparing it for its destiny, usually for the betterment of society. Making a positive difference in the future is characteristic of the stewardship mentality.

Growth. Do people believe that you are committed to helping them develop and grow? Servant leaders have a strong commitment to the growth of people. They believe that all people have something to offer beyond their tangible contributions. Servant leaders work hard to help people in a number of ways – spiritually, professionally, personally.

Building community. Do people feel a strong sense of community in the organisation that you lead? Servant leaders have a strong sense of community spirit and work hard to foster it in an organisation. Those who want to be great servant leaders must develop an environment that fosters conceptualization.

In short, servant leadership is a leadership model which pays attention to the needs of employees and customers and as a result has significant impact on the bottom line of organisations. As a servant leader. The manager engages the hearts and minds of the employees who are the most valuable assets of the organisation.