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Servant Leadership: What Is It, and Why Does It Work?
Apr 25, 2022 - AEU LEAD

"Servant Leadership" is becoming a buzzword in the business world, but what does it mean? Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership in an essay he published in 1970. Greenleaf, a well-respected figure in business and leadership, defines it as "The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first." Let's look at how this leadership style is different from traditional leadership.

 

Traditional Leadership vs. Servant Leadership

With traditional leadership, the leader motivates people to do their jobs by guiding, encouraging, and inspiring. In this environment, the leader's focus is to improve the company or business in the marketplace. On the flip side, a servant leader's priority is to provide service to employees. A servant leader focuses primarily on people versus the company. A servant leader makes sure that people are developing in numerous ways (professionally, academically, personally, healthily, and with autonomy).


It is widely believed that when a leader shifts their perspective from the company to people, it fosters more skilled, motivated, engaged, and talented employees. Having these well-rounded employees on a team helps the business's overall operations. Servant leadership has gained momentum in the last few years and adopted by top-ranking companies worldwide. Google is a well-known example. Google takes great care of its employees, and the employee-friendly approach has increased productivity and revenue.


Servant Leadership: Why Does It Work?

One of the first reasons servant leadership works is because leaders understand the importance of active listening. This leader will always listen before speaking. The leader genuinely wants to know what employees feel and think. A servant leader gives undivided attention and pays close attention to details such as body language and tone. In being an active listener, a servant leader feels deeply for their people and doesn't just turn a blind eye to employee problems. They're empathetic and have a keen ability to connect with people. This empathy and compassion are critical in the workplace.


Having an awareness of themselves and their people is another reason why servant leaders are influential. A servant leader has general awareness as well as self-awareness. This self-awareness is critical as a leader continues to grow. Awareness allows someone to understand issues, ethics, and values. It also lends itself to helping the leader view a situation from a centered and integrated standpoint. A servant leader convinces people in many ways to do what is preferred and in a preferred manner. They aren't forceful or bossy about getting things done. Instead, they subtly use their power and authority to guide employees toward a desired course of action.


Another tool of servant leadership is visualization. A servant leader has the foresight to anticipate future events and their impacts on the workplace. Foresight is an acquired skill learned through experience and the study of past trends. A servant leader is also capable of building concepts for employees. This leader creates a vision and mission statement that resonates with team members and lays out a clear direction for everyone to follow.


A servant leader is accountable for their actions and behaviors. They own the results - good or bad. Therefore, it's essential to assume accountability when a project fails. On the other hand, a servant leader gives employees full credit when a project succeeds. In an environment of servant leadership, leaders accept accountability and carry out the responsibility to their people.

 

Lastly, a servant leader helps create a sense of community. The main objective of servant leadership is to be committed to people. These leaders are encouraged and motivated by seeing their people grow and develop. They stay "in tune" with their people, which helps them anticipate their needs. A true servant leader considers employees to be more like colleagues or peers. They don't walk in front of them. They walk alongside them.


While servant leadership is a new concept in the business environment, it is a style of leadership that is gaining momentum around the world. It is believed that servant leadership is more of a lifestyle than a technique. It can be implemented quickly and effectively if you take the proper steps.

 

Ready to take the next step? Learn more about becoming an engaged leader with AEU LEAD.

 Our mission at AEU LEAD is to enable transformation. For those wanting to transform through the development of soft skills for supervisors and managers, we’re here to help. AEU LEAD strengthens organizations and empowers managers with leadership and safety training tailored to your business. Explore our services or talk with our team to learn more.

 
The opinions and comments expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of ALMA, The American Equity Underwriters, Inc., AEU LEAD or Amwins. None of the aforementioned parties or the authors are responsible for any inaccuracy of content or for any loss or damages incurred by any party as a result of reliance on information contained in this article. Content may not be published or reproduced without the written consent of the authors. Prior articles may not be updated for accuracy as pertinent information changes over time. The AEU LEAD blog is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.
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