Servant Leadership: The Unstoppable Force for Greatness
Servant Leadership is an unstoppable force for positive change that can transform toxic workplaces. Current leadership approaches fail to realize employee potential and the connection to business success. Instead, toxic workplaces and a disconnect with people reigns in corporate offices and work environments worldwide. Certainly, people go to work and business happens. Yet, it is so very inefficient. It could be so much better.
Unfortunately, leadership–business owners and executives–tend to look at a toxic culture with a blind eye. Look at the stats below. Companies cannot blame anyone but themselves. Managers are poorly trained and disengaged from executive leadership. This leads to poor working conditions and disengaged employees. Note these examples of toxic work environments. The negative bottom-line results equal lower customer service, quality, productivity, and sales.
- The tech industry laid of tens of thousands of people recently. They over-hired during the pandemic. Did the employees perform poorly? No. Yet, they lost their jobs. This kind of action drives disengagement.
- Consider the meatpacking industry. During the pandemic they did little to protect employees. Investigative reporting and employee complaints demonstrated their lack of concern. Recently, their disregard for employees rose again exposing their practice to hire child labor.
- Walmart has a history of treating employees poorly. At one point it had 5,000 employee lawsuits annually. Problems included sexual discrimination of women and forcing employees to work off the clock.
- Employees describe Uber as aggressive and unrestrained. Complaints include pitting workers against each other, sexual discrimination, and abuse.
- Amazon is amid union organizing. It is not surprising that their push for higher performance led to timed bathroom breaks and a hostile workplace. Blomberg reported Amazon had 189 emergency 911 complaints from forty-six warehouses for employee mental health issues.
- The “great” Elon Musk has a stream of complaints from employees at Tesla. In addition, his firing of employees and new culture at Twitter is textbook toxic.
The Great Resignation Opportunity
The GREAT Resignation signaled a revolution against top leadership. Record breaking numbers of employees quit their jobs from 2020-2022. It is continuing this year. I wrote about this potential in 2017–The Foreshadowing of an Employee Apocalypse. What are the reasons for quitting? See these from Fortune magazine.
- Lack of opportunities for advancement.
- Disrespect at work.
- Childcare issues.
- Lack of flexibility in work hours.
- Benefits not good.
- Wanted to relocate.
- Working too many hours.
- Working too few hours.
- Covid19 vaccines required.
Because of the above, companies are grappling what to do about it. A recent New York Times article, The Power of American Capitalism, lauds the US economic system and how it has grown stronger. While the stats included are impressive, it could be so much better by applying people-first approaches with Servant Leadership. This is what people want and need. It means creating a great place to work by focusing on treating employees as valued partners and not disposable resources. Here are three strategies organizations and leaders must apply to change corporately and with any given team.
This starts at the top, but all managers must work at it, and it is challenging work. Leaders must be accessible, and good listeners. With genuine and empathic communication, they can win people over. Leaders must also trust in employee potential. All managers will need regular training to improve their Servant Leadership and performance management skills. Furthermore, the company must provide a plethora of opportunities for employee growth and advancement.
A company’s culture is fluid, and it moves in the direction of how people interact. It is not the company rules or reporting structure that defines the culture. Working relationships spell the truth. You weaken culture with lies, negative or abusive communication, no response to raised issues, a lack of follow-through and blaming or shaming others for problems or mistakes. Support, listening, encouragement, genuine communication, fun, honesty, and integrity strengthens trust and a high-performing working atmosphere.
As a consultant, I noticed that most companies I began to work with have little recognition for managers. As part of our strategy to help improve performance we added management recognition. We used a variety of approaches. (Contests, awards, competition, teambuilding). We did it all in an atmosphere of performance enhancing fun. In addition, we translated how they could do this with their teams.
In one company they wanted to improve sales and increase retention with existing customers. With planning, training, coaching, and recognition, they increased positive results by 75% in eight months. This was a huge positive result and morale booster to this company. When you invest in people this is what they can do.
A Servant Leader believes in and cares about people. They realize that when employees win, they win. So, they take the time to do regular one-on-one coaching sessions with all employees. Likewise, they do informal coaching. This means using daily employee interactions (by chance or design: in-person, phone, email, text, or virtual) as opportunities to be supportive, helpful, and encouraging.
I was interviewing a manager at one of my client’s offices. Our goals were to increase employee engagement and positive communication throughout the company. I asked her about her boss’s communication. She said, “He is friendly and helpful but has a backbone of steel.” I loved the comment. It demonstrates that a leader cares, does all that he or she can to help an employee succeed. Yet, at the same time, sets lofty expectations and expects the team to step up. So, you hold them accountable. This is not a negative. You do not have to beat them up, you can build them up to succeed.
Pulling It All Together
In summary, creating a great place to work requires a commitment to do lead differently than the norm. Research shows to Servant Leadership companies or managers outperform their competitors. See these studies:
- Inspiration for Servant-Leaders: Lessons from Fifty Years of Research and Practice (2020). This study showed that servant leadership on average produces 12% more variance in employee overall positive outcomes.
- In the Seven Pillars study, comparing a 10.8% average return for Fortune 500 companies to the 17.5% Good to Great company returns, and servant-led companies delivered a 24.2% return.
Servant Leadership becomes an unstoppable force for greatness in leaders and companies that decide people-first in their values and approach. They will discover the outstanding difference they can make in people’s lives and business results. As Ken Blanchard declared, “When people lead at a higher level, they make the world a better place because in addition to relationships and results, the goals area focused on the greater good.”
Why not join us on LinkedIn for the Servant Leadership revolution that is taking place about the power of people? Go here: ServantLeadership@RickConlow International. THANK YOU!
Also, click here for excellent insight and a complimentary resource called–4 Keys to Creating a High-Performance Team.
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.