By Matt Rocco, President/CEO, Etech
Servant leadership is or should be the bedrock of all organizations. It is based on the principle of growth through individual recognition and achievement. The idea is that through a particular set of practices leaders can pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and the workforce to better balance efficiency, culture and ultimately profitability and growth.
While the philosophy of servant leadership has been around for centuries, it wasn’t until Robert K. Greenleaf
put the principles into print in 1970 that the corporate world began to take notice. Before Greenleaf's writing, the corporate world was organized into a top-down structure – the executives, managers, assistant managers, laborers. As the philosophy grew in popularity, more companies began incorporating a horizontal organizational structure based on collaboration and communication, broadening ideas and understanding while increasing the overall effectiveness of the workforce. Servant leadership is an integral part of modern organizations, and the transition to this type of leadership style rest in the understanding of eight essential principles.
When discussing leadership qualities, there is not one more important than communication. Open and honest dialogue ensures clarity and also helps to reduce tension and confusion. When leading through a servant mentality, there are three areas of communicating to focus on.
As a servant leader, you should demonstrate a deep commitment to listening. This doesn’t mean to stay silent or avoid conflict, but it does mean that you must fully comprehend and understand the opinions of others before dismissing or condemning their views and actions. The will of the group should always be identified before any organizational decisions.
In the same spirit of listening, empathy is the ability to recognize and understand the reasoning behind someone’s actions. This recognition is not an approval of performance or behavior, only an acknowledgment of understanding.
Healing can also be described as conflict resolution. It is the ability of a leader to listen to both sides, understand the logic behind the decision-making and provide a compromise or resolution that suits the best interests of the employees and the organization.
In top-down organizations, leaders coerce compliance through disciplinary measures and demands. In servant leader structures persuasion is preferred to positional authority, meaning that communication is used as a means of uncovering appropriate actions and convincing the whole as to its rightness. A leader using the servant philosophy understands the importance of consensus in community development.
Successful teachers of servant Leadership know how to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of others and within themselves. This ability to be self-aware
leads to balance in the team and the corporate culture. Awareness can be uncomfortable, admitting your need for assistance or lack of skill is not easy, but it is one of the best ways to foster a team mentality.
Beyond communication and team building a leader must be able to drive an organization forward through growth and ingenuity, both of which present risks. Therefore, a leader must develop foresight - the ability to systematically examine
and diagnose successes and failures to predict and avoid future mistakes.
In the practice of servant leadership, conceptualization refers to the act of thinking or dreaming of further growth opportunities often through the scope of foresight, meaning planning without losing focus on the present or the past. Essentially, conceptualization is tied to innovation and is necessary for modern organizational success.
Stewardship refers to the responsibility an organization has to not only its contributing workforce but the world as a whole. Many companies are stewards for healthy environmental practices. However, stewardship can also be about fair labor practices, proper resource management or even fiduciary responsibility.
7. Commitment to the Growth of People
One of the fundamental principles of servant leadership is the commitment to the growth of people. While the goal of any business is organizational growth, servant leaders understand that profits and people are uniquely intertwined. Without a happy and developing workforce, a company will struggle to maintain and surpass expectations.
8. Community Building
Community building is established through a combination of the above principles and practices. However, showing that you are not above the community can enrich and inspire the growth
of the overall culture more than any individual element. People are used to top-down structure, and despite the increase in servant led organizations, many still expect the do as I say not as I do
mentality, meaning that leaders who practice what they preach can ignite the rapid development of a cultural and corporate change.
Servant leadership is a necessity of modern organizations. The core principle of personal growth corresponding to corporate growth is something we sincerely believe here at Etech. We understand the benefits of community and communication.