Servant Leadership - What I've Learned!
For many years now the term Leadership has been a catalyst for many debates and conversations surrounding: What is a good leader? How should a leader behave? What are the best qualities of a leader? What does it mean to be a leader? However, very few times we've heard: This is what everyone needs to experience WITH A Leader FROM A Leader!
Until a few years ago, it was embedded in our corporate culture that becoming a manager and moving up the ladder was recognized as the only way to gain respect from your peers and become a "leader" within the organization. The question at hand is: Was this ever true? Or were we afraid of empowering others and providing them with an opportunity to lead due to our fear of giving away "power" and becoming obsolete?
For decades we can say with certainty that small businesses thrive on the department of Leadership because very early in the process they came to understand that there is one constant that can ruin or make your business - people! Small business owners have always been able to retain loyal, caring, and dedicated employees and they count on one of the highest longevities in business compared to medium size and large corporations. Now, don't get me wrong, bigger corporations -a few- have been able to experience the same and continue to be very successful under this "small-business minded" type of leadership, mainly because that "founder" never forgot what is most important - their people! They took the time to teach, to listen, to understand, and most of the time while in jeopardy or having to make difficult decisions, they never gave in on protecting their most valuable asset. We can also say that those that deviated from this, have had to quickly make a re-shift and focus their efforts culturally to be able to succeed.
So, why managing is no longer attractive? Why are we looking for Leaders? Is there a desirable way of portraying Leadership? Is there one style that fits me? With a new generation of Leadership emerging, we face a big monster that is called Power, even though is a natural part of our existence, the root issue comes to be on How Is Exercised. The reality is that no one needs anyone managing their actions, controlling their character, telling them what they need to do, taking away liberties and freedom, and most importantly no one needs to be reprimanded because they have dared to ask or disagree with a higher-up decision. Power, exercised wrongfully, portrays dictatorship and takes away our ability to connect, to have conversations, to trust and be trusted to exercise compassion and understanding.
What we have learned is that Leadership, while still possessing power and autonomy, if exercised from a servant mentality, does not only favor the Leader, it favors the organization, and most importantly favors the employee. Servant Leadership, a newly emerging term, but structured and exercised by many successful people for thousands of years, is the type of Leadership we have been waiting a long time for. Servant Leadership should not be undermined because its shows vulnerability, compromise, and compassion. On the contrary, those are some of the most difficult strengths a Leader can master. A Leader that can accept a challenge, discuss an idea, understand others' perspectives, listen to feedback, direct and does not dictate, who gets their hands dirty, promotes autonomy, trust their teams to come up with solutions, tests theories, who prioritize their team, who provides feedback, who promotes teamwork and can show a humble approach to decision making while still demanding accountability is what the workforce is telling us they need from a Leader.
This is indeed easier said than done, but the path is one that only those with the virtue of Leadership can start implementing. So, start today, get out of your office, sit on the floor, have an open/honest conversation with your team, show vulnerability, take an interest in their personal lives, ask them what is that they need from you as a resource. Even if you think you are doing half of what they're asking, sit there and LISTEN to the feedback, ask your team HOW can you do it better, WHAT can you be doing differently, WHO needs more one on one time to discuss obstacles, PROVIDE the tools to better their performance, DO NOT defend your position, and ACCEPT that you are there to SERVE your team, not the other way around!