The idea of a servant leader may seem odd at first. A leader is defined as an individual who goes before or with to show the way. On the other hand, a servant is an individual in the service of another. Can these two characteristics, leader and servant, be brought together? Even if they can, should they? Doesn’t a strong organization call for strong leadership? With the two definitions so contradictory to one another, it may seem impossible to have a strong leader that is also a servant. However, servant leadership has proven to be an effective management style.
According to our definition, a leader requires at least one follower for them to guide and influence. Further, being a follower is a matter of choice; a conscious decision requiring action. This would mean that leaders need to earn their followers.
Interestingly, many of the greatest leaders of all time had no position of authority or power bestowed upon them by a governing body such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Even the many who did have a title or position had success based upon their ability to earn the engaged following of those they were to lead, even in the midst of extreme difficulty. Such individuals include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, etc. How did they do it? What were the common characteristics they shared that earned them willing followers?
Without oversimplifying, two of the most critical characteristics these leaders all shared were their focus and commitment.
Each of them was focused on a greater cause. They were committed to achieving this cause for the benefit of the people for whom they had stewardship. In each case, their cause was designed to bring help and aid to those who followed them. They were dedicated to helping those they led and served to create an environment in which they could grow and achieve their full potential.
Each of these leaders exemplified common qualities that all tie into service leadership.
Capability – The knowledge, skills and abilities to fulfill the role and responsibilities they had undertaken.
Capacity – The bandwidth and resilience to face and endure the challenges before them.
Commitment – The personal dedication to see the cause through until it had become a legacy to be handed-off.
Caring – Personal passion and empathy for the cause and the people they were serving and leading.
Communication – Clearly speaking with and engaging their followers at their level of comprehension without being condescending.
Millions have demonstrated the willingness and desire to follow servant leaders.
How many of us are willing to become servant leaders ourselves?
It is at the core of our leadership culture at England Logistics. How about your organization? What belief drives your leaders?
As a Talent Management/HR executive with over 20 years of talent and human resource management experience, I strive to deliver value generating services to internal and external clients. This has provided me with the ability to lead or influence people in developing solutions to achieve higher levels of measurable success. My professional interests are targeted toward helping clients achieve their optimum performance through people solutions.