man holding a card with the phrase "servant leadership"

Who are Your Servant Leaders?

What is your experience of servant leadership?

Personally I have been fortunate to work with many great servant leaders throughout my career

(a few but not limited to) Georg Pepping Nick Jackson Juan Rada Hoda Mansour Harry Stehrenberger Dr. Reza Moussavian Dr. Anastassia Lauterbach Natalie Kouzeleas Ibrahim Gogus Steve Fearon Hisam Ahmad Birgit Klesper Vera Woltjes-van Lange Debbie Lawley Lynne Putz Ken Belanger Lars Wahlstrom Luc Glasbeek

Servant leadership is a philosophy and approach that can be adopted by anyone, regardless of their position within an organisation.

Traditional leadership often relies on a hierarchical structure, with leaders at the top and followers below them. In servant leadership the focus shifts from the leader’s authority to their responsibility to serve and support others. Servant leaders will be found in various roles and levels within an organization, including formal leadership positions like managers, executives, or team leaders, as well as informal leaders who lead through their actions and influence.

Servant leaders can have a significant positive impact on individuals, their teams and organisations by fostering a culture of collaboration, empowerment, and support. Their approach is not about exerting power or authority over others, but rather about enabling the growth and success of individuals and the collective as a whole.

Servant leaders share a number of key characteristics:

Being Empathetic: By having a genuine understanding and care for people, actively listening and being able to put themselves in others‘ shoes helps them understand perspectives, needs and challenges.  People in return feel valued and heard.

Having Humility: By cultivating a humble attitude and by being open to learn from others servant leaders lead the way of growth and development. Acknowledging their own limitations and by being willing to ask for help when needed gives people permission to do the same.

Serving Others: By prioritising other peoples needs, providing necessary resources, mentoring and guidance to help others succeed.

Leading by Example: By setting a positive example through your own actions and behavior.  I recall a team building event when a large group of senior leaders rolled up their sleeves and created a human chain to shift a ton of concrete rubble to complete a building task, it was a defining moment of service and support.  Servant leaders lead with integrity, honesty, and a strong work ethic and they show respect to others and treat everyone with fairness and dignity.

Fostering Collaboration: By encouraging a collaborative and inclusive environment team members feel valued and empowered. My career has revolved around collaboration, learning and development, and has been a tremendous source of great inspiration, open communication, active participation, and idea-sharing that all organisations would benefit from.

Enabling Personal Growth: By helping individuals reach their full potential, supporting their professional development and providing opportunities for training, mentorship, and skill-building.

Practicing Active Listening: By being fully present, listening attentively and striving to understand peoples perspectives they encourage open dialogue, and establish a channel for feedback and suggestions.

Building Trust: By being transparent in actions and decisions and following through on commitments and being consistent in words and behavior, trust is earned in time.

Celebrating Successes: By public recognition and appreciation of the team a positive and motivated work environment is fostered.

Reflecting and Adapting: By regularly evaluating their own leadership style and seeking feedback from others they learn from experiences, both successes and failures, and adapt accordingly. They embrace a growth mindset and commit to ongoing self-improvement.

Servant leadership is a journey that requires consistent effort and commitment. By embodying these principles, servant leaders can create a positive and empowering leadership style that brings out the best in people.

In summary, servant leadership is important because it creates a positive and empowering work environment, enhances employee engagement and wellbeing, fosters collaboration and trust, and contributes to sustainable organisational success and ethical decision making. By prioritising the needs of others and serving as a role model, servant leaders inspire individuals to reach their full potential and create a culture of excellence and growth.

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Karen, leveraging 25 years of international expertise, is your go-to HR consultant and speaker for organisational and people development for Future Work.

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June 14, 2023

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