As we look ahead to 2023, one thing is certain: finding – and keeping – the right employees is going to continue to be tougher than ever. You can tweak your benefits, offer more money and give people the option to work remotely, but there’s something else you might need to consider: leadership styles. Company culture has become increasingly important and it starts at the top. No one wants to work for a crappy boss.
There are endless philosophies about leadership styles, but today, in the spirit of the holiday season, we’re going to talk about Servant Leadership. While this non-traditional leadership style was coined by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, the workplace preferences of Generation Z and Millennial employees has brought Servant Leaders forefront. While previous generations have been OK with clocking in, clocking out and going home, younger employees want engagement and feedback. They want to feel like their company cares about them as people. So what does it mean to be a servant leader? And is this a style that might benefit you and your company?
According to Greenleaf’s organizational website, a servant leader is someone who is a servant first:
“It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead … The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong,” the site said.
“While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid,’ servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible,” it continues.
Servant leadership is increasing important to company culture because it creates a nurturing environment in which employees feel valued, respected and appreciated. If your business is a company where worker bees clock in, clock out and move on, then traditional leadership is probably fine. But if you run a company where you want employees who do their best work to grow your company, servant leadership might be a better option.
Here are three ways you can migrate toward being a servant leader:
Listen: People want to be heard and to feel like what they are saying is actually being heard. Close your computer, put down your phone, make eye contact, don’t interrupt, ask good questions be empathetic. Once you’ve heard what’s been said, take it to heart and be careful and honest about your next steps. Sometimes people just need an ear, but often – if someone is taking their concerns or suggestions to leadership – they want something to change.
Appreciate: Employees want to feel like they are making an impact. You don’t have to offer bonuses at the end of the year or take someone out to lunch every week, but you should make time to recognize people for the work they’re doing and the impact they are making on your business, your team and your bottom line. Say thank you. Bring in donuts. Write them a personal thank you card. Call them out at staff meetings. Whatever fits your style, find ways to show your appreciation outside a paycheck.
Trust: Servant leaders are most definitely not micromanagers. Hire great people, train them and then trust them to do their best work. Put them at the front of the line while you lead from the back. Hand them to reins so you can step back and focus on strategy and growth. ‘