Servantology: The Periodic Elements of Trusted Leadership

Servantology_Chris_Meade_LeadershipAlive_copyright 2016

Servant Leadership

During the last two decades, there has been an explosion of interest in the philosophy and practices of “Servant Leadership.” Many business thought-leaders believe that Servant Leadership is the new leadership model for the 21st century. This is especially true in light of the fact that the American workforce is radically changing and by 2025 over 65% of all workers in the U.S. will consist of the Millennial generation who view leadership from a new perspective.

It’s Not About You

Harvard Business Review recently stated, “The idea of Servant Leadership is a great place for new managers to start…The reason is simple. When you have a servant mentality, it’s not about you. Removing self-interest and personal glory from your motivation on the job is the single most important thing you can do to inspire trust. When you focus first on the success of your organization and your team, it comes through clearly.” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” Authentic servant leadership is always for the benefit of others and not the leader.

Putting Others First

Servant Leadership has its roots in the groundbreaking work of former AT&T executive, Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term almost 35 years ago. Servant Leadership emphasizes serving others, including employees, customers and the community. The Greenleaf Institute asserts that “Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just, compassionate and caring world.”

Servants First

The principles contained in the Servant Leadership model are grounded in the notion that leaders are servants first. The desire to lead others surfaces out of a motivation to serve others. Respected leadership is about putting the legitimate needs, goals, and priorities of the followers and constituents first. Ken Blanchard said, “Servant leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you, you work for them.”

Leadership Is Built Upon Character

True leaders know that leadership is not about them; it’s about others. That’s one reason why leadership has more to do with character than management skills. Servant Leadership is not about exalting yourself, but lifting others up. It emanates first from a desire to serve others. That’s why Robert K. Greenleaf said “good leaders must first become good servants.”

A New Kind of Leadership

James Hunter defines servant leadership as “…the skill of influencing people within a specific context to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good, with character that inspires confidence.” Bottom line: The best leaders use influence instead of intimidation to achieve results. They build trusted relationships that motivate followers. They have solid character that enables them to sustain a life of service and they genuinely care about their coworkers and community at large. They want things for people and not just from them. Servant leadership: A new kind of leader for a new kind of world.

 

We’re Wired For Community

Interdependence Not Independence

One of the secrets for a satisfying life and a high performing work team is not independence, nor is it over-dependence on others, it is interdependence. The software of our souls is coded with a need to connect with others and experience genuine community, not just in our personal lives, but in our work lives, too. People are wired for community. We’re made this way; it’s in our DNA. Of course, it was the Industrial Revolution that helped turn workers into cogs without soul. But Management 2.0 is changing that forever. A new movement is brewing. People crave relationships so much that many will settle for artificial or dysfunctional ones if it means not having relationship at all.

Wilson_Community_LeadershipAliveWe Need Other People

I’m reminded of the movie Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks…and of course, Wilson. If you remember, one of the most gripping scenes in the movie is when Tom Hanks finally escapes from the island and sails out into the ocean. During his sailing ordeal, Wilson, the volleyball, gets separated from the raft. Tom Hanks cries out to Wilson and asks him to forgive him for letting him get away. As dysfunctional as it is, it’s a clear picture of how badly people really do need others and how we all long to be part of a genuine community pursuing something meaningful. When organizations understand this important need in people, building teams and cultivating community becomes an inseparable part of their mission and definition of success. Profit alone is no longer the only bottom line that matters.

Work Teams: The New Normal

We grow and work best in the context of genuine community. Because most industries are moving away from work that is being done solo and shifting to work that’s done in some form of group or team, being able to work well on a team and/or develop a team is a valuable skill-set in the new economy. Bringing out the best in others, working well on projects in groups, learning how to collaborate and create synergy among colleagues, and solving problems alongside others is fast becoming the new normal.

The Benefits of Community

Having strong people skills is a valuable asset. Cultivating a culture where people sharpen and bring out the best in each other is the dream of almost every organization. Honestly speaking, this isn’t always the norm in many organizations. But I’m convinced we can all grow and improve in developing our team-building abilities just like any other skill…if we want to. As we do, this newly honed ability will set us apart from the average leader and manager. When we desire to serve people and bring out the best in them, the best will be brought out in us, too.