The term servant leader is certainly interesting. Some people view servants and leaders as mutually exclusive roles with one completely subservient to the other. Combining servant and leader into one term, and using it do describe a leadership ideology really causes people to freak out. In our world, it seems the idea of being a servant is really frowned up by those that would count themselves as leaders but I’m not sure why. We need only look back at history to see people who viewed themselves as servants, while the rest of us count them as leaders. With examples like Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Jr., it seems to me we should all strive to be servant leaders of their ilk.
- Don’t be so prideful. My master’s program management instructor explained that if the term “servant” in servant leadership causes you problems, you should ignore it. This instructor has taught me so much, but on this particular point I must disagree. If you’re so prideful that the term “servant leader” causes you to lock up and freak out, you should seriously reconsider trying to lead. Being a leader has to be about humility and service to those you mean to lead. If you can’t stand that idea, you’re not a leader. Anyone who has been around a 4-year-old child understands how easy it is to be bossy. A leader is not bossy, and a boss is not necessarily a leader. Be HUMBLE!!
- Create autonomy. The point of servant leadership is to help your people learn to be autonomous and purposeful in their work. Some would use the term “empower” here, but I hate that term. It’s a buzzword we can do without. The point is to help your people do their jobs without having to run back to you for every decision. You must equip your people to the point they really don’t need you anymore. In that case, you as the leader become “a source” instead of “the source”. (Thank you Dr. Simmons for that) Your goal is to help your people become the best they can be at their jobs through mentorship and coaching. If you don’t have a heart for people, you can’t have a heart for leadership.
- Leadership is a privilege. You are not a leader based on your intellect, forcefulness, personality, or birthright. This is not a feudal society and being a leader is not a position you hold so that you can kick around a few serfs. Lordship is not leadership. Consider it a privilege that you’ve been asked to lead. Do it with a grateful heart and spirit and let those around you know that you’re there to help them succeed. If you’re not helping people succeed, you’re just a boss, and not a leader.
- Hush up and listen. If you’re leading then you’re probably not doing the day-to-day work that your people are doing, and that’s a good thing. However, it means you probably don’t know as much about the tactical / technical aspects of the job as they do. It goes to reason that you should listen to them, and involve them in decision-making. My grandpa once told me, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so that you’d listen twice as much you talk”. I always thought it was a little more polite way of telling me to shut up. But as I’ve gotten older and gained experience I realize that sometimes I talk too much. We all want to get our ideas out there to be heard. We all want respect. So give your people the respect you yourself desire by listening to their ideas. Good or bad, hearing them out will tell your people you respect them enough to give ear to their thoughts. Don’t be dismissive or superior, just listen.
There’s a lot more, but I don’t want this to be a 20 page blog post. I’ll come back next week with part two of “Be a Servant Leader”. Thanks for reading.