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Leaders, Are We in The Service Business?

There are many different theories of what constitutes good leadership, and every few years, new research, ideas, and experiences take root in most organizations. Current global upheavals, such as geopolitical turmoil, inflation, and climate change, also test the traditional definition of leadership. Leaders find themselves shelving their plans and doing something very different.

Today's leaders play several different roles at once, forge relevant on-the-job skills and behaviours, cultivate a distinctive set of mindsets, and build a more compassionate and equitable workplace, and that's just the beginning.

Leadership can fall under several types; however, this article will focus on the service-minded leader, one who focuses on improving the well-being of the employees they lead. By building on and surpassing traditional leadership approaches that can help transform organizations through a combination of self-awareness and effective outward-facing actions for the road ahead.

Service-minded leader, or Servant leaders, as it is termed, occur when a leader's main goal and responsibility is to provide service to their employees who are directly below them and ensure that they are growing in all areas, their profession, knowledge, autonomy and even their health and physical development.

This leadership style has gained immense popularity because leaders shift their focus from the organization to the employee, which can produce skilled, talented, knowledgeable, and motivated employees, leading to the overall improvement of operations and management.

Where did the term servant leadership come from? Robert K. Greenleaf developed it in his 1970 Essay, "The Servant as a Leader." He wrote, "The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then, conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first."

The most essential characteristic of being a servant leader is to prioritize serving rather than leading. This encompasses serving the needs of your employees and helping them to grow in the organization.

In addition, here are some other characteristics of a Servant Leader:

Good Listener: Servant leaders listen intently and give their full attention while taking notice of body language. They avoid interruptions and provide feedback on what was said.

Empathy: Servant leaders strive to understand other people's intentions and perspectives and can put aside their viewpoints and, more importantly, hold an open mind.

Self-Awareness: Being aware of how your emotions and behaviour affect the people around you. Being prepared to accept and grow from your weaknesses and knowing your team's strengths and weaknesses to help them grow and learn.

Persuasion: Using persuasion rather than authority to encourage employees to act and build consensus. A servant leader tells their team why it's the best method or process rather than telling them what to do.

Commitment: Being committed to the personal and professional development of everyone on the team by providing the skills and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

In conclusion, servant leaders lead by example as it helps to motivate the team. Please encourage your team to work together and suggest ways to improve because it shows that you care for and appreciate their contributions, which leads to a higher quality of work. Finally, encourage your team to provide feedback when they have an idea to improve workflow; this helps to empower them to come up with suggestions at any time for the road ahead.

I leave off with a quote from Colleen Barrett, president of Southwest Airlines:

"Servant leadership means you serve first. You lead second. You give 110% every day. And if you make decisions based on your heart and your head and some plain old common sense, 99.9% of the time you're going to be okay,"


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