Servant Leadership: Principles, Popularity, and Payoff
Grasp Servant Leadership principles, popularity, and payoff to begin to excel as a leader. With employee engagement and retention on a decline this leadership approach is long overdue. Robert Greenleaf first introduced the Servant leadership style in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader.” The concept of servant leadership is simple: leaders focus on serving the needs of their team members, rather than their own personal interests or only emphasizing profit.
Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their team members, empowering them to reach their full potential. This type of leadership creates a culture of trust, respect, and open communication within the organization. By elevating the needs of their team members, servant leaders create an environment in which employees feel valued and respected. This, in turn, leads to increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
10 Cultural Principles of Servant Leadership
Embrace the ten key principles of servant leadership.
- Listening: Servant leaders listen carefully to their team members, seeking to understand their needs and concerns. They create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback.
- Empathy: Servant leaders have empathy for their team members, putting themselves in their shoes and understanding their perspectives. They show compassion and support for their team members, both personally and professionally.
- Healing: Servant leaders strive to create a positive and healthy work environment, where team members feel safe and supported. They work to heal any conflicts or issues that arise within the team.
- Awareness: Servant leaders are self-aware and have a deep understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. They are open to feedback and actively seek to improve themselves.
- Persuasion: Servant leaders use persuasion and influence to guide their team members towards a common goal. They do not rely on their authority or power to get things done, but rather on their ability to build consensus and cooperation.
- Conceptualization: Servant leaders have a sharp vision for the future and can communicate it effectively to their team members. They use this vision to guide their decisions and actions and inspire their team members to work towards a common goal.
- Foresight: All effective Servant Leaders exhibit vision. This demands clarity on the value of the team and what collaboration and teamwork really looks like. In addtion, it provides inclusive focus on the purpose, goals, and plans of the team.
- Stewardship: Servant leaders see themselves as stewards of the organization, responsible for its long-term success. They prioritize the needs of the organization over their own personal interests and make decisions that are in the best interests of the organization.
- Commitment to People: As described, servant leadership organizations aim to help people succeed at work and life. They know that when you do this employees excel at work, and as a result the company excels.
- Building Community: The goal involves a positive impact on employees and the local and world community. Servant leaders are driven to do what is morally right for the many not the few.
Servant leadership is not just a feel-good philosophy – it demonstrates tangible benefits for organizations. Research has shown that organizations with servant leaders have higher levels of employee engagement, lower turnover rates, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. Servant leaders create a culture of trust, respect, and genuine communication that fosters innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
Check out these examples of companies that have applied servant leadership principles.
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines is known for its strong commitment to servant leadership. The company’s founder, Herb Kelleher, believed that putting employees first was the key to success. Southwest prioritizes its employees’ needs by offering competitive wages, flexible schedules, and opportunities for advancement. As a result, the airline has consistently ranked high in customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
- The Container Store: The Container Store is another company that has embraced servant leadership. The company’s CEO, Kip Tindell, believes that by putting employees first, the company can create a culture of service that extends to its customers. The Container Store offers its employees competitive pay and benefits, as well as a strong focus on training and development. This has led to elevated levels of employee engagement and a strong commitment to customer service.
- Marriott International: Marriott International is a global hotel chain recognized for its commitment to servant leadership. The company values the needs of its employees by offering competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, and opportunities for advancement. Marriott also encourages its employees to get involved in their communities and has a strong commitment to sustainability.
- TDIndustries: TDIndustries is a construction and facilities services company that has embraced servant leadership. The company focuses on creating a positive work environment that empowers its employees to reach their full potential. TDIndustries offers its employees a comprehensive wellness program, opportunities for professional development, and a strong commitment to community service.
- Starbucks: Starbucks is a company identified for its commitment to servant leadership. The company’s former CEO, Howard Schultz, believed that by putting employees first, Starbucks can create a culture of service that extends to its customers. Starbucks offers its employees comprehensive benefits, including health insurance and stock options, as well as opportunities for professional development. The company also has a strong commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.
In summary, these companies serve as excellent examples of how servant leadership applies in various industries and contexts. By focusing on the needs of their employees, these companies have been able to create strong cultures of trust, respect, and service. Consequently, this commitment leads to prominent levels of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and organizational success.
5 Key Reasons CEOs Do NOT apply these Principles
Here are five reasons companies or CEOs may not implement servant leadership principles.
- Short-term thinking: Company leaders may prioritize short-term gains over long-term success. Servant leadership requires a longer-term perspective and investment in building relationships and trust, which may not align with short-term profit goals.
- Focus on shareholder value: Companies set up shareholder value above the needs of employees or other stakeholders. Servant leadership requires a more holistic view of the organization and a laser focus on creating value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
- Hierarchical structures: Companies have hierarchical structures that establish power and control over collaboration and empowerment. Servant leadership requires a more team based and inclusive approach to leadership, which may not align with traditional hierarchical structures.
- Lack of awareness or education: Leaders may not be aware of servant leadership principles or may not understand how to apply them effectively. Without changes outdated polices and training on the topic, it is challenging to adopt and implement servant leadership principles.
- Fear of losing control: Servant leadership requires a certain level of vulnerability and trust in others. Leaders may fear losing control or may not believe in their employees enough to change. Furthermore, companies may feel pressure to meet external expectations or standards, such as quarterly earnings targets or market share goals. Servant leadership requires a devotion to building relationships and trust, which may not be seen as a top priority in high-pressure environments.
In conclusion, overcoming the above barriers requires a willingness to embrace a more collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership and a commitment to building relationships and trust with all stakeholders.
Learn these statistics and examples of the positive impact of servant leadership.
- Increased Employee Engagement: According to a Gallup survey, organizations with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147% in earnings per share. Servant leaders prioritize the team, creating a culture of trust and respect that leads to increased employee engagement.
- Improved Customer Satisfaction: A study published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that servant leadership positively influenced customer satisfaction through its impact on employee attitudes and behavior.
- Higher Employee Retention: A study by the Harvard Business Review determined that employees who feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves and have a sense of purpose and meaning at work are 1.4 times more engaged and are more likely to stay with their employer.
- Improved Organizational Performance: A study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies found that organizations with servant leaders had higher levels of financial performance than those without servant leaders.
- Increased Innovation: Servant leaders create an environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and collaboration. By empowering their team members and encouraging them to share their ideas and feedback, servant leaders can tap into the collective intelligence of the team, leading to more innovative solutions and approaches.
- Positive Impact on Society: Servant leaders focus on creating a positive impact on society and making a difference in the lives of others. As a result, they create a culture of service that extends beyond the walls of the organization.
In conclusion, with the above benefits servant leadership achieves positive results for organizations. This makes servant leadership an effective and compelling style for organizations looking to create a culture of trust, respect, and service.
Here are seven proven steps for implementing servant leadership in a company or with your team.
- Define servant leadership: The first step in implementing servant leadership is to define what it means for your company or team. Study the literature, get training and coaching, and do your homework. Also, educate employees and leaders on the principles of servant leadership and how to apply them in the workplace.
- Assess the current culture: The next step is to assess the current culture of the organization. This may involve conducting surveys, focus groups, or other forms of feedback to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current situation.
- Set goals and metrics: After your assessment, with an open mind review your strengths and weaknesse. It is important to also set goals and metrics for implementing servant leadership. This may involve identifying specific behaviors or actions or processes that align with servant leadership principles.
- Train and develop employees: To effectively implement servant leadership, it is important to provide training and development opportunities for employees and leaders. This may involve workshops, coaching, or other forms of education to help employees understand and adopt key principles.
- Empower employees: Servant leadership requires empowering employees to take ownership of their work and make decisions that benefit the organization and its stakeholders. This may involve delegating decision-making authority, providing resources and support, and creating a culture of trust and accountability.
- Foster open communication: Open communication is a critical aspect of servant leadership. Various policies and approaches may need to change to encourage and facilitate open communication between employees and between employees and leadership. Most importantly, this needs to be a way of doing business not a program to ensure that the collective needs and concerns are heard and addressed.
- Lead by example: Finally, it is important for all leaders to lead by example and embody the principles of servant leadership in their actions and behavior. This means demonstrating empathy, listening actively, empowering employees, building relationships, and fostering a culture of service.
Implementing servant leadership in a company requires a deliberate and concerted effort by leaders and employees. By following the steps above as guidelines, companies can create a more positive and productive work environment that prioritizes the needs of all stakeholders.
In conclusion, as companies continue to experience labor shortages, engagement issues, and retention problems the popularity of Servant leadership grows. Why? Because it elevates people first. Servant leadership creates the positive work environment that employees desire and seldom experience. And it produces generous bottom-line benefits for organizations that executives need. The Servant Leadership potential is becoming increasingly important for leaders who want to separate themselves from competitors through a healthier and likewise higher-performing organization. Engage servant leadership today. It leads the next revolution in leadership thought and practice. As Robert Greenleaf declared years ago: “Good leaders must first become good servants.”
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Finally, see Rick’s newest book. The 5 Dynamics of Servant Leadership: How to accelerate your career and inspire your team! See his newest self-directed leadership training: 21 Servant Leadership Training Lessons.
CEO/Founder, Rick Conlow International: RCI transforms managers into leaders by coaching and training them to become Servant Leaders. Clients achieve record-breaking performances in sales growth, customer experience improvement, employee engagement and leadership effectiveness. Furthermore, RCI’s online resources coach and train all managers or employees to higher levels of career success.