Developing Leaders Throughout your Organization

A leader is defined as a person or thing that leads and a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group. When I think of leaders in an organization this definition falls short because it implies a picture of a leader barking commands much like a general instead of leading with intention. Servant leadership, is a philosophy coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in which he discusses a “set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world,” does not fit this definition. A servant leader puts their people first and focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of his or her people and the communities to which they belong. Instead of the top down pyramid, the servant leader shares power and helps his or her people develop so they can perform as best they can.

Many of Fortune’s Great Places to Work have mastered the servant leadership by putting the needs of their employees first. Often traditional leaders balk at this mindset citing the needs of the customers, but these organizations have found that when they focus on their employees first, the customer’s needs are met because their employees work tirelessly to meet them.

Four keys to Servant Leadership include:

  • Listening: Many managers fail to listen to their people and after some time, their people quit trying to communicate. In a world driven by communication it becomes easy to get lost and assume we listen when we do not. A servant leader’s ability to listen is key in perceiving the needs of others. By creating a safe space, a servant leader can encourage open and honest communication because people feel safe to share their truth, which give the leader the information they need to make the best business decisions. It is imperative that fear based leadership does not exist.
  • Awareness: A servant leader is self-aware and takes time to assess effect on others. These are keys of emotional intelligence and help a leader to identify ways to improve their ability to form healthy relationships. After all, workplace relationships are how work gets accomplished.
  • Employee Growth: Servant leaders believe that their people have value beyond what they contribute to the workplace. For this reason, the servant leader is committed to the growth of every employee and coaches their people. This can include professional development, listening to their ideas and encouraging their input in decision making and assisting employees to achieve their greatest potential.
  • Influence: Servant leaders rely on their ability to influence others rather than using their position of authority to demand compliance. The servant leader works to convince others, rather than using their position power to get their way. They understand that by listening to their people and taking the time to communication why or why not something can be done, they are building a trusting relationship on which to build.

By taking time to create a respectful workplace, the morale of employees improves, and productivity rises as well as profitability. Through servant leadership you can create a win-win situation for the employees and organization as well.

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