Servant Leadership Theory

A recent theory of leadership says that the most effective leaders aren’t the ones that demand compliance and control. The best leaders, in fact, serve as servants to their direct reports. By actively seeking out the needs of their team, these leaders can create predictable results because they are emphasizing empathy and collaboration instead of compliance.

Transitioning to a servant leader is possible for any manager or supervisor, but the process can be rather difficult – especially for those leaders who are used to complete control. Here are some of the common mistakes that are made when the Servant Leadership Theory is being implemented.

1. Service is Done Begrudgingly Instead of Willingly

The attitude of the leader practicing this leadership theory is incredibly important. Those who are willingly serving the needs of their employees will experience a lot more success than those who do so because they feel like they are being forced to do it. Leadership that has a negative attitude associated with it will create negative teams and ultimately make work more difficult.

2. The Wrong Needs Are Being Provided

Being aware of what the needs of a team happen to be is essential for this leadership theory to be successfully practiced. Without this knowledge, the leader is randomly guessing at what their direct reports need for success and that’s a recipe for disaster. Observations must be made and feedback must be heard by the leader for a true servant style of leadership to be successful.

3. The Needs of the Organization Cannot be Ignored

The danger of servant leadership is that it can become one dimensional or even have tunnel vision. Those who are practicing the Servant Leadership Theory can become so fixated on meeting the needs of their team that they fail to meet their own needs or worse – forget about meeting the needs of the organization itself. These other needs cannot be ignored because otherwise true servanthood is not being practiced.

4. There Must be a Commitment Toward Growth

For a true servant’s perspective to be had, the leader must be focused on providing growth opportunities to each direct report. When each person is able to find more success, then the entire team experiences greater success – including the leader. Leaders hesitate here because it seems like they are creating the conditions where an employee could wind up with a better job, a better salary, or more responsibility then they are able to have. That hesitation shows that there isn’t a true servant leader in place.

5. Foresight Means Being Able to Conceptualize Specific Servant Strategies

Many leaders look at being a servant in a negative light. They picture going on coffee runs and fixing copy machines instead of what is really necessary – establishing a vision. Leaders need to be able to know what the future will bring to a team by being able to analyze available information and then conceptualizing an appropriate response that can be achieved through their servanthood perspective.

Servant leaders are critical to the success of any team. When it is appropriately implemented without these common mistakes, then everyone benefits.

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