Most organisations I have worked with are encouraging a culture of “Servant Leaders” amongst their leadership. It does require some facilitation, debate and a mind shift. Because, how do you reconcile leading from the top, and serving from below?

What Is Servant Leadership?

As servant leaders, you’re a “servant first”. This means you focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before you consider your own. Servant leaders acknowledge other people’s perspectives and involve them in decisions. They give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, and build a sense of community within the team.

This style represents the opposite of the traditional leadership model. Here, the leader is seen as the centre point of the team, and employees support them to meet company goals.

Instead, servant leadership puts the employees and their needs as the main actors. Under this leadership philosophy, the more you invest in serving as a “scaffold” for your team, the more productive your team becomes.

Servant leadership works at two levels: it is an artful balance of top-down direction and bottom-up empowerment. 

Top-down direction

The aspect of top-down direction involves setting the strategic vision for the company. It’s about communicating that down to the team level by providing priorities, expectations, and limitations, as well as clarity on overall direction and company values.

In essence, servant leaders provide a framework within which their team can flourish, rather than prescribing specific direction on each of their duties. Within that framework, servant leaders place themselves in service to their people. They focus on setting the employees up to succeed at achieving the vision. 

This is where the bottom-up empowerment aspect comes into play.

Bottom-up empowerment

This involves building up their teams’ confidence, decision-making ability, creativity, risk-taking, and collaboration skills. The leader motivates and inspires by encouraging ownership and extending supported trust. They’ll also ensure that the team has the necessary resources, budget, skills, and attention to make an impact.

In servant leadership, employees are empowered, but the leader doesn’t just disappear.

Rather, servant leaders understand how much and what type of support to give when facilitating growth. They know when to get involved and when to let their team steer the ship. More importantly, they know when to let their employees fail if there is a powerful lesson to be learned.

Servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique as such. Rather it’s a way of behaving that you adopt over the longer term. It should be used alongside styles like transformational leadership and can be integrated in a high-performance culture.

Whatever style of leadership you need to cultivate in your business, contact us to help you.

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