The picture of leadership is often that of an assertive person ahead of their team, making decisions and driving others to accomplish goals. But in reality, that isn’t the only form of leadership the world has or needs.
Leadership takes place in different contexts. We see leadership in schools, social groups, and communities. And leadership in such cases does not always follow the manner of traditional leadership. In many cases, a different type of leadership, such as servant leadership, is more important.
There are several examples of servant leadership in history and contemporary times. There are studies that hail persons like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr examples of servant leadership. Another example is that of Nelson Mandela.
Servant leaders are people who can impact not just their immediate followers or teams, but the world as a whole.
Now, let’s explore this concept more deeply and consider why servant leadership matters and how you can develop it as your own style of leadership.
What is a servant leader
A servant leader is someone who leads from an inconspicuous position. They do not lead others in a noticeable way and often, their work goes unrecognized. Instead, the group or team gets praised for their community-driven efforts and the results they create.
Servant leaders are not always prominent personalities like those mentioned above. Our homes are often run by such leaders in the form of parent figures. We may not always recognize what they do, but we certainly feel their absence.
Why servant leadership matters
So, why would anyone want to develop a servant leadership style? After all, recognition is something that comes with leadership as well as the fulfilling experience of making a change. But I think that servant leadership offers immense fulfillment and personal rewards that are even more valuable. Let’s see why servant leadership can be a game-changer.
Servant leadership creates success at work
There are several examples of businesses that have gained phenomenal success from lessening the role of management and giving people or employees the reins.
Why does this work? When people are allowed to express themselves, take initiative, and determine things like their own work hours or pay they bring more energy and their best efforts into a business.
The real-life example of this is in the work of Ricardo Semler who wrote Maverick and brought a fading business to life by empowering his employees. He completely dismantled the traditional hierarchical structure and gave the real workers the power to make decisions. This saw innovation and incredible growth that led to the company, Semco, becoming a global success.
One practical way to support servant leadership is to ask people for ideas. By giving them the opportunity, platform, and recognition they need to bring innovative ideas to the table, you’ll build a positive work environment and loyalty.
Crisis situations need servant leaders
As in the case of the current pandemic, situations that are unusual need more than traditional leadership styles.
We need empathetic leaders who create hope and build people up so that they can find their footing when times are tough.
In practical terms, a servant leader can practice active listening and encourage people to take decisions and find solutions on their own. By supporting people, you encourage them to become independent and make changes that lead to positive outcomes for the community as a whole, especially during times of crisis.
Servant leaders bring people together
The most powerful form of leadership is one where a leader inspires others into actions. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi’s greatest strengths lay in inspiring people to take up a cause. For a more ordinary example, the work of the two WordPress creators we spoke of earlier, led to the creation of a platform that encouraged people to create their own blogs and businesses. They also built a community of millions with their work.
As a leader, look for leadership in others and try to build a common goal for your team or friends to rally around. When you create a powerful purpose in others, you build a powerful engine for change.
The term ‘servant’ leadership belies the true power that this form of leadership creates. The examples and studies mentioned in this post show that servant leaders can create change that transforms people and shapes history.
Use the ideas mentioned in this post to explore servant leadership in your own life. You’ll grow and will certainly help others grow too.