Servant leadership is one of the most important concepts to grasp if you want to lead a successful organization. It’s not about having the right answers or being a bossy leader — it’s about being servant-oriented and empowering your team to do their best.
A servant leader flips the top-down hierarchy on its head — the leader seeks to serve the team and not the other way around.
If you’re ready to get off the throne and be among your team to empower them and achieve organizational goals faster, read on.
5 Practical Steps to Becoming a Servant Leader
1. Flip the pyramid.
The first step to becoming a servant leader is to take a look at the organizational chart in your workplace…is it a pyramid that puts you (the CEO or manager) at the top? If so, flip it upside down and put yourself at the bottom.
A typical top-to-bottom pyramid makes it difficult for the information to flow from employees to the leader. Employees at the bottom won’t be able to see the bigger picture and will do their tasks because they’re told to do so.
Similarly, the top-level guys do not get the proper information from the employees at the bottom. This makes it challenging for the top management to make adjustments to their strategies and decisions to achieve organizational goals.
Furthermore, it brings a people-pleasing attitude to the organization where everyone at the bottom focuses on making the boss happy. They waste time on unnecessary compliments, saying yes to everything, and doing everything the boss asks them, even if it’s non-work-related.
Maybe you’re not that kind of boss. However, you cannot be so sure about others in the key positions in your organization.
To avoid such situations, your organizational structure should be upside down where the bosses go to their teams to discuss issues, get ideas, and have meaningful conversations.
2. Mentor your employees.
A servant leader is like a mentor who takes his team through various challenges and helps them achieve their goals.
The leader should be more of a coach than a boss in this case. If you want to become a servant leader, it’s important for you to be able to talk to your employees about their work and the areas they feel challenges. Here’s how to do this:
- Establish a culture of trust. Make it clear that discussions with you are judgment-free and confidential. Your employees will feel free to talk to you about their problems and challenges.
- Provide feedback. When reviewing their performances, always provide constructive feedback. Highlight both the good and improvable areas of their performance and help them understand what’s wrong and how it can be fixed.
- Offer guidance and training. Make sure your employees have proper resources, training, and advice to overcome their weaknesses. It can be a course, a small session with you, or an expert in the area they are struggling with.
Do not just focus on the weaknesses of your employees. Highlight their strengths as well and offer support to further polish them.
3. Share your vision and goals for the organization.
Start sharing your vision and goals with your team.
What will this do for them? They’ll know where they stand in the organization. They will understand where they need to go as a team and how they can help each other. They’ll work towards their vision together.
But that’s not all. You also need to align your employees’ motivations with these goals and visions.
The best way to do this is to tell them how they are going to contribute to this big picture and how valuable their contribution is.
Employees need to feel valued and that they’re serving a purpose and not just mindlessly following tasks. They need to see that their leader trusts them with responsibility and needs their help to take the organization ahead, benefiting every stakeholder.
You can only do this after establishing yourself as a trusted and responsible figure among your team.
4. Let everyone have their say.
Servant leaders always put their team first, and that also applies when you make a decision or assign a task.
Invite your employees to have brainstorming sessions with you. Encourage idea sharing and ask for their input when making a decision.
You can also have an idea box where employees can give their input anonymously to avoid getting judged by others. In fact, employees who feel heard feel 4.6 times more empowered to do the best job.
Moreover, when assigning a task, or project, do not impose your decision. Listen to employees as well. Try to understand their point of view.
Make sure not to command but persuade and motivate others to follow through with your decision using logic and reasoning.
5. Let others take charge.
Do you know the main difference between a servant leader and a traditional leader besides being empathetic? Servant leaders let their employees take charge.
A typical CEO or manager may fear the consequences if their employees start spearheading important projects. A servant leader doesn’t. Her/his job is to empower the team to lead, and if they make mistakes along the way, then it’s okay. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow.
This is the final step in your journey to becoming a servant leader.
When you start doing this, your team members will see that you are genuinely interested in helping them grow. They’ll follow every direction and believe in every decision you make. Not out of fear, but out of respect and trust that you’ll do the right thing.
To become a servant leader, it’s important first to understand that leadership isn’t about being in the driver’s seat all the time. It’s about being approachable to your employees and setting examples for others to follow.
By following these five practical steps, you’ll be on your way to becoming a more influential and respected leader in your organization.
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