At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:
As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office. Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything. When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.
No, that isn’t servant leadership.
Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.
A servant leader is one who:
1. Values diverse opinions.
A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions. If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.
2. Cultivates a culture of trust.
People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.
3. Develops other leaders.
9 Qualities of the Servant Leader
- Values diverse opinions
- Cultivates a culture of trust
- Develops other leaders
- Helps people with life issues
- Sells instead of tells
- Thinks you, not me
- Thinks long-term
- Acts with humility
The replication factor is so important. It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example. That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.
4. Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).
It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job. Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette. None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.
The hallmark of a servant leader is encouragement. And a true servant leader says, “Let’s go do it,” not, “You go do it.”
6. Sells instead of tells.
A servant leader is the opposite of a dictator. It’s a style all about persuading, not commanding.
7. Thinks “you,” not “me.”
There’s a selfless quality about a servant leader. Someone who is thinking only, “How does this benefit me?” is disqualified.
8. Thinks long-term.
A servant leader is thinking about the next generation, the next leader, the next opportunity. That means a tradeoff between what’s important today versus tomorrow, and making choices to benefit the future.
9. Acts with humility.
The leader doesn’t wear a title as a way to show who’s in charge, doesn’t think he’s better than everyone else, and acts in a way to care for others. She may, in fact, pick up the trash or clean up a table. Setting an example of service, the servant leader understands that it is not about the leader, but about others.