The term “servant leadership” has emerged in the last couple of years, but the core ideas that make up servant leadership—empathy, empowerment, sharing responsibility—have been around for a while. Learn all about the importance of servant leadership below.
Due to the strain on the workforce caused by the pandemic, servant leadership is becoming more prevalent. Leading with empathy and giving employees more ownership over their work is becoming the norm, rather than an outlier.
Dave Sackett, Chief Solutions Architect at Visibility Corporation, joins the show to explain servant leadership, its benefits, and how it makes us better leaders.
What is Servant Leadership?
While the definition of servant leadership may vary depending on who you talk to, for the purposes of this episode, we’re taking our definition from Dave. So what is a servant leader?
It means having empathy. It means building your team up, giving them resources, strength, and the power that a normal leader would hold on to. So often in a corporate setting, it’s the leaders that hold all of the power, and they lord that over those that work for them.
“Servant leadership really means having empathy, really building your team up, giving them resources, giving them strength, giving them power that a normal leader would want to hold on to.” — Dave Sackett
But servant leadership flips that dynamic on its head. It allows people to really make decisions, and bring their own ideas and proposals to the table. Then as a leader, you go with the best one, not because of who brought the idea to the table in the first place, but because of the merit of the idea.
Rather than leading from the top, as is the case in a lot of organizations, servant leadership puts the leader at the bottom of the pyramid, and pushes people towards the top, raising them up to be their best selves.
Why Servant Leadership Is Not More Well-Known
Why don't more leaders use this type of management style? The short answer is human nature. But truthfully, we live in a world of conflicting leadership styles. People have worked hard, gone to school, worked countless hours, and made the sacrifices necessary to get in a position of leadership, and they feel like because of that, that they’ve earned the right to be a leader and to make those decisions.
“It's not just do as I say, it's are you convinced, my staff, that this proposal is the best.” — Dave Sackett
Because servant leadership isn’t a “curriculum,” people aren’t exposed to it regularly. Even though servant leadership came about in the 1930’s, it’s still not widely practiced because there isn’t one standard of what it means to be a servant leader.
How to Become a Servant Leader
The good news is that anybody can be a servant leader, whether you’re a brand new leader, or you’ve been leading a team for decades. Leaders aren’t born. People work towards leadership, and if leadership is something that you work towards, it’s something you can develop and hone.
Servant leadership is all about how you operate, your principles, and the level of empathy that you carry. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised up a whole new generation of servant leaders, as the workforce has had to balance home and work life in a way that has never been necessary before.
“With the pandemic, I think you are seeing more empathetic leaders.” — Dave Sackett
So if you can be empathetic, have good listening skills, have self-awareness, and humility, then you can be a servant leader. It will require vulnerability and work, but it will pay dividends in the long run.
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