6 Traits that Unlock the Powerful Presence of Servant Leaders
How do you get someone to follow you? Most leaders rely on position power that comes with their job title. The presence and impact of Servant Leaders depends on their personal power.
Leadership through position power involves these strategies:
- Domination approach.
- Employees are subordinate.
- “Do as I say!”
- Fear strategies.
- The leader has all the answers.
- Controlling through intimidation or analytics.
Leadership through personal power includes these strategies:
- Service approach.
- Employees are associates.
- “Do as I do also!”
- Creating organizational engagement and teamwork.
- The team has answers, too.
- Influencing and empathy through people skills.
This is an exciting time to be a leader. Never before has there been so much statistical evidence linked to leadership effectiveness. The essence of servant leaders has more to do with who they are and how they treat others. The position or title is secondary. Research also suggests that managers who focus on service to others are more successful than those that don’t. Most importantly, then, six key traits unlock the depth of position power that define a Servant Leader’s powerful presence.
The Characteristics of Servant Leaders
What are these characteristics of servant leadership? Research by Kouzes and Posner indicates key characteristics of the most admired leaders. Aspiring and experienced supervisors, managers and executives alike have benefited from their findings. Their work correlates with the teaching of author and consultant Warren Bennis. He describes that you master the context of leadership by not just doing things right, but more importantly doing the right things.
Kouzes and Posner found five crucial traits. Their study’s methodology included a questionnaire and case studies. It included 20,000 managers from four continents. Listed below are my brief definition of each these traits. From my experience, I added a sixth as bonus. These are the bedrock traits of Servant Leaders.
Not surprisingly, honesty is the most important trait. That is to say, we see lack of integrity displayed so often in high- level officials from government, religion and business. How can you measure honesty? The leader’s behavior often leaves clues in their relationships. Does the leader do what he or she says is important? Does the leader follow-through on commitments? How does the leader handle conflict? Is the leader consistent in various practices and policy execution? How well does he or she listen to others? For example, one manager declared that customer service was his #1 priority. Yet, he often described complaining customers as “bananas”. As a result, his company’s service levels didn’t improve. Leaders who are genuine not only act the part but also declare their values, ethics and standards quite clearly. To clarify, without integrity everything that potential leaders do is a ruse.
Being Forward –Looking
Peter Drucker said it well, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Employees want to know where the organization is going. Servant Leaders do this well. They also give hope that the company or department can do it. This adds a level of comfort and security. I also adds the inner motivation for employee performance. Therefore, effective leaders identify a vision that supports the values of the organization. Then they consistently communicate this direction to others. Today the most successful leaders define a purpose driven vision that will make a difference in local communities and the world, above and beyond profit.
You don’t have to be a motivational speaker to have this characteristic. However, the leader does need to be positive, enthusiastic, and energetic about their company or department. They also must believe in what they are attempting to accomplish. Too many managers are negative. Negativity destroys employee commitment. There is also no better way to sap the vitality of a group than to show up for work with a ho-hum attitude. Servant Leaders have passion for their work. It’s contagious. Passion leads to purpose which makes work much more meaningful to others. Therefore, they do a better job. This all leads to constant and consistent interaction in a variety of ways with all levels of the company.
In today’s volatile marketplace leaders need to be “students of the game.” In other words, they need to know their field well technically. In addition, they must understand the business. The leader doesn’t have to be the best technical person. Yet, they should be able to add real value to the job. Furthermore, Daniel Goleman’s work with emotional intelligence suggests that a key competency is “ people skills”. How well does the manager master personal and emotional self- control? And, how well does the manager interact with others? Does his or her behavior bring unity or division?
How do you know you are a credible leader? In summary, leaders who are credible are: honest, forward looking, inspiring and competent. Communication experts call this source credibility. In other words, it means trustworthiness, dynamism, and expertise. Servant Leaders have credibility by delivering a positive track record, and concise clear expectations. They are consistency constant between words and deeds. Leaders with these attributes are believed. All of us want leaders we can believe in and trust. Kouzes and Posner call this the First Law of Leadership: If we don’t believe in the messenger, we won’t believe the message.
Most leaders want the attention. Consequently, their ego demands recognition. Leaders like Elon Musk, Richard Branson or the late Steve Jobs come to mind. Servant Leaders inspire others by giving them the attention and recognition. When things go well the team is lifted up. When things don’t go well they take the blame. Most people aren’t familiar with this today. Furthermore, humble leaders don’t get the press or name recognition but they most often get the results. Former CEO of Medtronic, Bill George, comes to mind. He facilitated Medtronic’s growth into a great company. He did it with an authentic focus on employees and patients. In conclusion, Pastor Rick Warren said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
In the final analysis, Servant Leaders stand out. Servant leadership is a lost art. Why? Because they appear to be an anomaly today. Most notably, they exhibit the traits that we long for in leaders that we are willing to follow. Plus, according to research they achieve better results. Finally, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”
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