Empathy, compassion, humility – these are a handful of qualities that are often considered ‘weak’ and incompatible with so-called ‘strong’ leaders. Is that really the case?
No. In fact, it takes more strength of character to show these qualities than to rule with an iron fist. How are some executives, managers, community, and family leaders implementing these qualities and others for more effective leadership?
Let’s zoom in on what is sometimes referred to as ‘servant leadership.’ We’ll define the characteristics of a servant leader and whether or not this approach is worth adopting. First, let’s discuss how servant leadership differs from traditional leadership styles.
Differences Between Traditional Leadership and Servant Leadership
The conventional boss frequently plays the ‘power’ card, demanding to be served simply because of their title. Meanwhile, the servant leader acknowledges their team and makes them shine rather than focusing on their personal position as a leader.
“A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong,” explains the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. “While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid,’ servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”
Yes, the servant leader is in-tune with the strengths and needs of their team – collectively and as individuals. They work hard to care for and develop their team. This work involves ensuring their team has what they need to succeed, whether allocating more resources to their project or offering a well-timed word of encouragement.
More specifically, what behaviors does a servant leader either avoid or implement?
What Servant Leadership Does Not Involve
Here are just a few toxic habits servant leaders avoid:
- Micromanaging – Noone wants their boss looking over their shoulder and outlining every last detail of how to do their job.
- Demanding respect – Noone finds it easy to respect a leader simply because they require it.
- Breeding competition – Noone wins in a cut-throat or kiss-up environment.
- Abusing power – Noone appreciates hypocrisy or ‘do as I say, not as I do’ policies.
What Servant Leadership Involves
Here are just a few essential habits servant leaders cultivate:
- Expressing confidence – Everyone feels trusted and capable when their oversight hands them the framework of a project and says, “I know you can do it.”
- Earning respect – Everyone finds it easy to respect someone who works hard to build it and shows it to others.
- Encouraging teamwork – Everyone thrives when working as a team instead of ‘looking out for number one.’
- Building trust – Everyone feels more secure when oversight promotes transparency, owns up to mistakes, and uses discretion.
Now that we’ve defined servant leadership, it’s time to answer the burning question; does it work?
Is Servant Leadership Effective?
In a word, yes. Servant leadership has proven effective time after time. Why? The qualities of the leader help those on their team thrive. Take the quality of empathy as an example.
“Research shows that empathic workplaces tend to enjoy stronger collaboration, less stress, and greater morale,” states Jamil Zaki, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, for Harvard Business Review (HBR).
If just one simple quality can do so much, aren’t the above benefits alone worth it? Still, there are more benefits to consider
Benefits of Servant Leadership
Here are just a few more benefits of servant leadership:
- More productivity – When talent is developed, and everyone is excited about their role, productivity soars.
- More profitability – When everyone is productive and innovating as a team, profits are bound to increase.
- More talent retention – When team members feel appreciated, included, trusted, and duly compensated, they are more likely to stay.
- More team satisfaction – When oversight creates a healthy working environment, everyone finds more joy in their work.
- More engagement – When individuals feel they are growing and their talent is being used to fill a custom role, they’ll be fully engaged in their work.
All of the above benefits of the servant leadership model – when properly implemented – go hand in hand. So, how can you reap these benefits?
What it Takes to be a Servant Leader
Are you wondering if you have what it takes to become an effective servant leader? Do you have the qualities of a servant leader? Again, take empathy as an example.
“Many leaders struggle to make caring part of their organizational culture,” continues the aforementioned HBR article. “The first step towards building empathy is acknowledging that it’s not an inherent trait but something that can be built. When people believe that empathy is something you either have or don’t have, it may seem out of reach.”
Indeed, it’s not about inherently having all the qualities of a servant leader – it’s about willingness to develop them. So what are the qualities of a servant leader?
Qualities of a Servant Leader
Beyond empathy, there are several distinctive traits of effective servant leaders. Let’s look at some characteristic cornerstones of a servant leader.
Here are just a few qualities of servant leaders:
- Humility – It means admitting wrongs, apologizing, asking for help, and including others in decision-making processes.
- Integrity – It means having high standards and sticking to them no matter the circumstances.
- Passion – It means you sincerely care about what you do, and it’s evident to those around you.
- Courage – It means you can speak up, make difficult decisions, and handle awkward situations when necessary.
- Accountability – It means you own up to mistakes, you don’t shift blame, and you accept the consequences of your actions.
What can help you learn more about how to become a servant leader?
Leadership Development Program
Aden Leadership offers a leadership development program that can help you become a more sincere, credible, and successful leader. We help business and community leaders tap into their potential through consultations, workshops, and speaking engagements. To get started, schedule a complimentary discovery call.
Additionally, Aden Leadership is hosting a special Leadership Development Series with virtual and in-person opportunities to attend. These high-impact sessions feature conversations on critical leadership topics designed to help you elevate your approach. Get your tickets today!