Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.
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.
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.
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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.