10 Servant Leadership Characteristics Of Effective Leaders
Within the sphere of modern companies, leaders are at the forefront of change, business scalability, management, operations, projects, processes, corporate workflows, and a myriad of other key corporate factors that concretely determine how well a business will function, both now and in the future. Hence, business leaders are a core component to the success or failure of a company, as they - like a ship’s captain - steer the company in the direction that will ultimately shape its future. Whether the leader is a c-suite executive, or a director, project manager, or board member, two critical forms of leadership exist that can help to influence a company’s personnel and overall drive:
- Traditional Leaders: Traditional leaders simply designate tasks, design projects, choose personnel for workflows, and move the business forward by ensuring that every member of a team is on point and working to complete their tasks with the highest level of efficiency possible.
- Servant Leaders: Servant leaders carry out much of the same tasks and functions as traditional leaders while focusing more on team members and their success rather than their own success.
While it may seem like there is only a slight difference between the two, the critical and key differences between the two leadership styles may greatly affect the inner operations of the company by influencing the personnel’s morale, loyalty, and attitude towards leadership and designated tasks, which directly translates to lower employee turnover, higher retention rates, greater productivity, higher levels of business efficiency, and greater corporate success.
Servant leadership embodies several key traits that allow managers, executives, and directors to help their teams evolve by modeling emotional intelligence, empathy, and general selflessness. These three core factors of servant leadership typically foster more highly motivated personnel who are more loyal and proactive in putting forth their best effort for their leaders.
10 critical elements of servant leadership to adopt include:
Empathy: Empathy is an innate emotional understanding of what team members/personnel are struggling with, and understanding their needs for success. Servant leaders do more than simply delegate tasks and keep personnel on point; they do everything possible to keep their team members on the path to success.
Listening: Servant leaders are great listeners in that they understand the value of putting other people’s needs first, which often means listening as opposed to speaking. Such leaders use their listening skills to actively deal with conflicts and resolve issues.
Awareness: Servant leaders are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and limitations. They use their strengths to benefit the company and their team while ensuring that their weaknesses do not get in the way of corporate-wide success.
Healing: Servant leaders are good at nurturing and healing those around them by being empathetic and listening to the problems of their team. Servant leaders take a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their personnel and employees.
Conceptualization: Servant leaders are good at looking ahead, and turning concepts into reality by understanding how the future goals of the company fit into the present situation.
Persuasiveness: Due to being committed to the wellbeing and welfare of others, servant leaders are good at negotiating with business partners, stakeholders, clients, and end-users, and are capable of using the power of empathy and persuasion to not only understand the other side of an argument but to sway the other side accordingly.
Stewardship: A servant leader is able to proactively and efficiently utilize company resources in the best manner in a way that betters the organization as a whole.
Foresight: Servant leaders are able to predict the future and produce critical and applicable plans based on past events and key data.
Community Building: Servant leaders are typically very skilled at bringing people together for a common, bigger purpose, and helping to not only build the community but foster and nurture its growth.
Commitment to Growth: Servant leaders are also skilled at helping individual team members grow and develop.
Servant leaders are an important part of the evolving corporate landscape on a global level and can help to radically assist any business with its growth and scalability.
What Is Servant Leadership?
A servant leader, simply put, is a leader who puts others before himself/herself. This includes nurturing others in the team and helping team members with their personal growth, even if it results in the member moving on.
A key example of a servant leader is an executive, manager, or director who understands other’s perspective, ensures that his/her team members are well equipped, skilled, informed, and trained to succeed in all aspects of life, and always makes decisions with the team’s best interest in mind. This helps team members to keep high morale, have high loyalty to such a leader, and to do the best work possible in the company, both because they are equipped to do so, and because they are motivated by the servant leader to succeed and carry out all tasks with the highest quality possible.
Advantages Of Being A Servant Leader
Several studies - including a research Delphi study, and the Ken Blanchard poll, noted 5-12 key areas associated with a servant leader that, upon further analysis, can be directly translated to higher corporate productivity, efficiency, and success.
Increases Trust & Loyalty
When leaders care about the well-being of their employees and carry out actions that clearly stipulate their concern with their employee’s success, it breeds trust and loyalty, which directly translates to higher employee motivation to succeed, higher employee morale, and greater productivity from corporate teams. This improves the credibility of the brand/business and its overall bottom line.
Increases Employee Productivity
Increased trust/loyalty typically translates to greater productivity from personnel who develop a positive attitude, which results in a positive corporate culture. This makes employees feel motivated to perform well.
Creates Satisfied Customers
When a business is operating at an optimal level, the end product is usually more polished, resulting in more satisfied customers. This results in higher customer retention rates and more long-term customer ambassadors since a caring attitude reverberates through the organization’s employees to its customers and clients.
It Encourages Growth
A servant leader is able to plan effectively, utilize resources responsibly, and help departments scale by effectively bringing out the best in his/her teams. Greater productivity and a more optimally operating company translate to better growth and scalability. Servant leaders ultimately bring out the full potential of their teams.
10 Characteristics Of Servant Leaders
There are some important aspects of a servant leader that distinguishes him/her from a traditional leader. Studies prove that the most important ones include valuing people, being humble and caring, listening to others, trusting others and instilling trust in employees.
For example, servant leaders will always listen to all sides of a corporate issue and take the course of action that benefits the whole team.
1. They Listen
As those who serve others while leading, servant leaders know how to listen and be receptive without any judgments. They are willing to set aside their beliefs and preconceptions because they truly want to listen to the suggestions of others and learn from their team members.
2. They Are Committed to the Growth of People
Servant leaders commit themselves to the growth and evolution of other people, namely, their team members and personnel. They recognize the value of each team member and seek to develop their personal and professional growth.
3. They Empathize
Servant leaders approach any and all situations with an open mind and utilize emotional intelligence to care about the feelings and perspectives of others. This helps them to negotiate and deal with business matters on another level.
4. They Heal Others
Servant leaders who sincerely care about the emotional state of others tend to help team members deal with their personal issues so that they can succeed in the workplace.
5. They Are Self Aware
Servant leaders, as opposed to traditional leaders, are aware of what holds them back, and what helps them succeed in life, and thus are able to leverage the strengths and weaknesses that they are completely aware of, in order to succeed. Due to being completely aware of their strengths, weaknesses, values, emotions, and feelings and how they affect the people around them, they can operate optimally in the workplace. This self-awareness also allows for personal biases to be put away while making decisions.
6. They Have The Ability To Persuade
Servant leaders are excellent at seeing issues from another perspective and are able to employ emotional intelligence (“soft skills”) to positively influence others. That is, they persuade others rather than forcing them into compliance.
7. They Think Broadly
Servant leaders have the ability to conceptualize and see the bigger picture. They visualize the future and make sure to take the necessary steps to get there.
8. They Have The Gift Of Foresight
Servant leaders learn from past lessons, which gives them the intuitive ability to see the possible outcome of a certain situation. This allows such leaders to be excellent planners, and to effectively utilize resources responsibly.
9. They Are Great Stewards
Since servant leaders take responsibility for the planning, managing, actions, and performance of the team, they are effective at motivating team members due to leading by their actions.
10. They Are Interested In Building the Community
Servant leaders are not only interested in the bottom line, but also promote team spirit and give employees a sense of belonging.
Common Misconceptions About Servant Leaders
While servant leaders are more optimal leaders who inspire more motivated and productive employees by first serving team members, there are a number of misconceptions about such leaders, including:
Servant leaders are pushovers and are easily taken advantage of by employees.
Servant leaders are wise, discerning and analytical enough to know how to help others without putting themselves into a position to be used or manipulated. Being a servant leader is simply about putting others first, not about being unable to take a firm stance or being unable to operate as a strong leader.
Servant leaders are subservient, passive, and unassertive people.
Like the above misconception, servant leaders are active, firm, assertive leaders who can even be aggressive when it is necessary. Being kind, caring, empathetic and emotionally in tune with a team does in no way equate with being subservient or passive.
Servant leaders are too soft and can't handle difficult situations or deal with high pressure or conflict.
Servant leaders lead in much the same way as traditional leaders - the critical difference is being caring and empathetic about the team that he/she directs. This has no bearing whatsoever on how well the leader deals with difficult situations. In fact, due to being more empathetic, servant leaders often deal with conflicts and negotiations/disagreements better than traditional leaders. Being a servant leader means understanding another perspective, as opposed to being rigid and stubborn.
Leading With Others In Mind
Being a servant leader means leading with others in mind. This simply means that, as a leader, managers, directors, and executives should care about their team and ensure that they have everything they need to succeed, which translates to a better operating company, and a better bottom line.
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