“Organisations exist to serve. Period. Leaders exist to serve. Period.” – Tom Peters
Being a servant leader might sound paradoxical at first – how can someone be subservient and lead at the same time?
Turns out, servant leadership has a deceptively simple philosophy at its crux – putting people first.
The model was conceptualised in the early 1970s by Robert Greenleaf, who sought to differentiate between the leaders who wanted to ‘serve’ from the ones who simply wanted to lead – the latter being driven purely by the material benefits.
Servant leadership is essentially about empowering employees to acknowledge their needs and professional abilities and providing them with the necessary opportunities and resources to make the most of their talent.
Wooing The Choosy Millennials With The Help Of A Servant Leader!
Millennials are expected to form a major chunk of the workforce, worldwide, by 2020.
Millennials are tech-savvy and more socially inclined, as compared to the previous generations.
They aren’t looking for the typical, secure ‘9-5’ jobs – they seek opportunities to grow within the organisation, recognition for their efforts, constructive feedback from their managers, and a better work-life balance.
Servant leadership, despite being decades old, is the best model to manage the millennial generation, because they want management that engages them, empathizes with them as people, and pushes them to pursue their personal ambitions along with fulfilling their duties.
Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of servant leaders, to understand how they’d be perfect for your millennial workforce!
Signs Of A Servant Leader!
To know if you are dealing with a servant leader, look out for these signs!
1. Servant Leaders Value Their People
Servant leaders are good listeners, and support their staff. They are good at recognising and acknowledging the diversity in the workforce, and personalising their management to help underperformers perform better, and the achievers to realise their potential.
2. Servant Leaders Are Authentic
Authenticity is all about transparency. Servant leaders are consistent in message and transparent in intent.
3. Servant Leaders Downplay Power Structures
Servant leaders don’t rely much on job titles, organisational charts or rules of compliance. They use persuasion to get things done. Additionally, they tend to see failure as an opportunity to learn, and not as an excuse for punishment. They might fire people, but are clear and open about their reasons for doing so.
4. Servant Leaders Develop Their People
Servant-leaders avoid the consequences of this indispensability – including their own – by developing people who can step up whenever needed.
5. Servant Leaders Focus On Collaboration
Servant leaders focus on building compassionate, collaborative teams – one of the major reasons why millennials flourish under their management, since they thrive in community based cultures. Servant leaders demonstrate that every employee is valuable, and that business results should be achieved without jeopardising relationships amongst the employees.
Owing to these qualities, servant leadership is often considered too ‘soft’ for business profitability, despite studies proving otherwise.
Service Leadership Is A ‘Bottom-Up’ Approach…
Servant leadership is the opposite of a traditional ‘command and control’ culture. Given that technology has made our economy more social, people need the psychological safety and autonomy to be creative and innovative. This is true especially for millennials, who look for organisations that are not tyrannical!
Businesses that put their people first and give sufficient importance to their requirements will survive, and thrive!
Servant Leaders ARE NOT Micromanagers…
On the contrary, they are ‘facilitators’!
There is a thin line between being a facilitator and being a micromanager. Micromanagement is an unhealthy obsession with hovering over the employees’ shoulders and controlling every move and decision, thereby hurting employees and companies.
By being a facilitator, a servant leader becomes a resource the employees can turn to for feedback, a quality that millennials look for in their managers!
As mentioned earlier, servant leaders view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. They provide their employees with the necessary resources and strategic inputs, and simply let them take the reins!
How Can Managers Become Servant Leaders?
Here are a few tips to help managers embrace servant leadership!
1. Offer A Growth Mindset
Managers must offer their employees a continuous learning environment and opportunities for growth. For example, creating career paths for your people, to benefit the organisation, and them too, even if they might need to move to another organisation to realise their ambitions!
2. Be Authentic And Communicate Freely
Managers can connect with their employees by being open and sharing plans for the future, communicating important things to their people, and fostering a transparent culture. Servant leaders are constantly communicating, giving and receiving feedback on no less than a weekly basis.
3. Practise Humility
New managers need to be humble enough to put other people ahead of themselves, not hogging the limelight for organizational accomplishments (since they recognize that the client-facing people are the ones that “make things happen”). Humble leaders gladly accept the role of learners because they know it will make them better.
4. Listen To Your People
Not just listening, but active listening. They need to be open to feedback, and be willing to change when they make mistakes (as a result of listening to constructive feedback that will help them grow as leaders). This is essential in building credibility with followers.
5. Allow Your Employees To Take Risks
Servant leaders are known for creating an environment in which risks are taken, allowing those around them to feel safe to exercise their creativity, communicate their ideas openly and provide input to major decisions. A servant leader will never foster a fear-based work culture.
Additionally, servant leaders consider mistakes to be opportunities to learn and improvise.
6. Invest In Training And Development
People, especially millennials, tend to admire leaders who will coach them to success. When you coach people, you’re developing them to succeed. That’s why it’s an investment.
You’re bettering yourself as a leader by learning coaching skills and you’re bettering the employee experience by elevating their skills.
Managers who are good coaches purposely set aside the time to find out where their best people are with their career. Coaching is the highest form of nurturing, loving and developing the capabilities of your employees and employee-leaders.
7. Demonstrate Accountability
It goes without saying – being accountable for your decisions and fulfilling your commitments is fundamental to being a servant leader!
8. Share Information
In order to foster transparency, it is crucial to share information!
Managers often withhold important information, believing that they will be viewed as less authoritative, weak, and will eventually lose their leverage.
Start slowly with being more open, sharing your plans, news strategies and developments, where the company is headed, how they fit into the bigger picture. Avoid the need to control and be bureaucratic, which gives employees the impression that they are not trusted. That will only decrease employee engagement.
Being a servant leader will not only earn you the respect of your employees, especially the millennials, but will also contribute positively to the growth of your company and your workforce!