Why is Servant Leadership such a Lost Art?
- Part of it is an increasingly complex, technology dependent and inter-connected globe. As a result, most organizations are disrupted and turned upside down. Another icon company led the headlines today with bankruptcy. Chaos often reigns with constant change processes in place, with everything a priority. And the lure of moremoney, power and influence is greater than ever. This leads to avarice and corruption at unprecedented levels.
- Communication is crazy in companies. It moves at light speed because of the internet of things. However, it stalls like a car out of gas because people always seem too busy to talk to one another. So, they use email, texts, or mobile apps to engage others instead. It is not the same as interacting face to face and never will be. Leaders talk about the importance of company communication. But they are seldom heard or available except when there are problems. James Humes said,“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Without authentic communication servant leadership is impossible.
- Employees are gaining more control in companies. It is an employee-hiring market. Jobs are more plentiful, so employees go where they find better pay, benefits and working conditions. They do not want to put up with the stupid things companies or managers do. Disengagement is so high in most places; can you blame them?
- Finally, management jobs are tougher. There is more to do, fewer people to do it. The data analytics for most managers is a full-time effort. Competition is greater and relentless.
As a result of the above, managers are overloaded with stress. So, it is not easy, of course. It never has been.
The coup de grâce for Servant Leadership
Edelman’s Trust Barometer declares a polarization of trust in business, government, non-government organizations and the media globally. Trust has crashed in the US. Without trust, employees (and customers alike) will not be loyal. They are suspicious of their company’s intention. As a result, they have little confidence they will treat them well or fairly.
What Creates the lack of Trust?
Managers at all levels in organizations lose trust because of:
- asking for feedback but not listening or using the ideas,
- not providing the tools or needed training or coaching or support,
- poor communication and working relationships,
- no follow-through on promises or decisions,
- mostly criticizing not praising the team or company
- lies and false truths,
- not admitting mistakes or taking responsibility
- lack of loyalty by managers,
- and so, the list goes on.
Since managers have the greatest impact on employee performance the consequence is that overall results suffer. Employee engagement, employee productivity, employee retention, and customer service outcomes decline to mediocrity. It is not surprising, is it?
The bedrock qualities of Servant Leadership are ethics, integrity, honor, empathy, honesty and character. It is about people-first not profit. Consequently, the bottom-line is that too many managers lack of these traits. This is a death knell to working relationships. In addition, the four circumstances above also have created a poisonous environment where managers take shortcuts to survive. They compromise their values and ethics. For example, this was true of the scandals at Wells Fargo and Volkswagen. The end result is that leadership distrust is even more rampant and credibility fleeting.
Most experts define leadership as influence. I don’t because so much of the influence today is negative and self-serving. That’s not leadership. I believe leadership requires positive influence in a service role. Servant Leadership is about positive possibilities. It is honest, inspiring, daring, caring, courageous and visionary. Take away these characteristics and you have mediocrity, demagoguery, tyranny, despotism, and anarchy. There are servant leaders around, just not enough of them.
For the actual art of Servant Leadership to be practiced,the well-being of people have to be more important to those in authority than profit, personal promotion, or gain. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it brilliantly, didn’t he!
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