What it Means to be a Servant Leader
The concept of servant leadership has become a widely circulated term used by business coaches, aspiring entrepreneurs, and corporate gurus.
But don’t people usually think of a “servant” as being the opposite of a “leader”? How can a servant leader be both?
I’d like to help you see the significance of being a servant leader. To start, look below at this well-known image depicting the difference between a “boss” and a “leader.”
In this first image, the boss sits atop the mission while he points his team where to go; seemingly removed from the situation.
But in the second image, the leader is equally aligned with the team in pulling the mission forward.
This also rings true in the expression “leaders eat last.”
Servant leadership’s general philosophy is that the leader’s main objective is to serve. This is somewhat contrary to the traditional structure of leadership which defines a leader’s key responsibility as growing and thriving their organization.
How Servant Leaders Think
Servant leaders understand that when one employee becomes stronger, the entire organization becomes stronger.
Each team member represents a link in the chain, which is just as valuable as the entire chain itself.
A servant leader intimately knows that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and they take an active role in forging their weakest links to become stronger.
Leaders, Bosses, and Kings
When servant leaders conceptualize their role in the organization, they can transcend their ego in a manner that a boss or a king may not.
Kings are typically depicted as ruling over their subjects. They sit atop a throne, have their servants fetch things for them, and unilaterally create rules for all those around them to live by.
Although monarchies are quite antiquated in our modern world, I’m sure you’ll have no issue picturing a leader that you’ve served who fits this description.
Equipping Those Around you for Success
Servant leaders regularly ask the question, “How can I serve those in my organization toward our common goal?”
This statement, while simple, carries a heavy impact. As a servant leader, you have the potential to leave a lasting influence on your employees.
Working together on the mission far outweighs commanding the employees what to do next, distanced from the action.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the servant leader should be down in the warehouse loading cargo onto trucks, or handling all of the HR by themselves. Rather, it means that they are constantly evaluating how they can embody leadership in a way that equips their employees for success.
This is the best path to reach the company’s goal.
Recognizing the Value in their Team
Effective delegation of tasks is crucial to the success of any business. When a servant leader equips those around them, it often means that they are empowering them with more responsibility.
On the contrary, bosses may attempt to retain control of everything happening in their organization.
As a consequence, they are usually quick to take credit when efforts pay off and are first to enjoy the spoils… with little consideration for the team that helped make it happen.
Recognizing the value in the team is imperative to the long-term success of any business.
Many times, I have seen somebody leave an otherwise excellent occupation in search of an organization that sees their value and takes time to appreciate them for what they contribute.
As my businesses grew, I began to see more opportunity in my employees as teammates. I chose to invest more time in helping them grow, rather than focusing on growing the company directly.
This led to even more growth, as well as a very positive culture. We continued to gain more and more market share.
Being a Servant Leader
Servant leaders show belief and appreciation in their employees by empowering them to do their best each day and take on more responsibility.
Far from being a slave driver, the servant leader helps the employee see where they can make a difference in the organization and evolve into the best version of themselves.
They are benevolent mentors.
Acting as a servant leader alongside your employees means ensuring your company grows into something beautiful, even if you were to leave it behind one day.