Five Highly Effective Services Within Servant Leadership
The term “servant leadership” is one referenced quite often across organizations today. It describes a leadership philosophy based on the concept that the greatest results are generated by a leader’s ability to serve others, with the idea that such service will be passed on throughout an organization and to stakeholders.
When discussing servant leadership, we often hear similar qualities used to describe those deemed to be servant leaders. Some of the most popular qualities suggest that servant leaders are selfless, empathetic, thoughtful and humble, among a number of other noble attributes. While those are great qualities for any individual to possess, what are the actual services servant leaders provide their teams? And, why are they effective?
Beyond the general concept of serving others, effective leaders must be able to describe the tangible services they offer others. They must be able to articulate what, specifically, their services are and why they are valuable. While servant leaders may offer a variety of services to those they lead, below are five highly effective services that high-performing servant leaders provide their teams.
1. The Service Of Trust
As survival-based beings, we are wired to instinctively question our surroundings (including people) as a means to avoid threats to our survival. As we navigate our environments, a substantial portion of our focus is consumed by securing safety before concentrating on pursuing opportunities. As leaders, when we give others trust, we decrease their concern of threats and increase their sense of safety. With an increased sense of safety, they are freed up to apply more of their energy toward capturing opportunities, and hence performing at greater levels.
The most effective way to build trust is through continuous transparency. When we willingly share resources, intentions, ideas, concerns and feelings, others will be more likely to feel safe in trusting there is no hidden agenda to be concerned about.
2. The Service Of Curiosity
As social beings, the development of our thoughts and ideas are greatly dependent on our interactions with others. When we are able to share our ideas with someone, we are able to project onto an external audience, interpret feedback and expand upon our initial ideas. Without this interaction, our ideas remain within ourselves and are undeveloped. As leaders, when we seek to understand others’ ideas with sincere curiosity, we invite them to step out of their internal narrative and refine their ideas by explaining them. With this, they are more likely to account for inconsistencies (blind spots) before turning ideas into action, and therefore, more likely to achieve greater success.
The most effective way to practice curiosity is to ask epistemological questions in order to get to the core of one’s ideas. When we ask such questions, others are more likely to reflect on the rationale behind their standing ideas before making them stronger.
3. The Service Of Order
The world is naturally full of chaos, filled with randomness and uncertainty in the unknown (symbolic of death). In response, we, as humans, instinctively seek to create order and certainty in the known (symbolic of life). This allows us to “map” chaos so that we may structure our initiatives to align with our goals. As leaders, when we provide continuous order for others, we provide them with certainty. With greater levels of certainty, they are able to align their efforts with their objectives with a lesser burden of confusion and distraction from chaos. As a result, they are able to perform at greater levels.
The most effective way to provide order is to cocreate plans with others. When we invite others to partner in creating plans and models, we engage them in the process of developing structures they not only understand but are also committed to supporting as co-architects.
4. The Service Of Resource Allocation
We have all heard the phrase “hunters and gatherers.” As we pursue our goals, we engage in both acts of hunting and acts of gathering. We hunt via the execution of actions aligned with achieving our goals while we gather the necessary resources along the way. The gathering portion of our pursuits can consume quite a bit of time and can often be fulfilled by others. As leaders, when we can gather for others, they are freed to apply more of their energy toward their specialized hunt, and hence achieve greater results.
The most effective way to allocate the right resources is to understand others’ specific goals. When we can understand the gap between where team members currently are and where they’d like to be, we can account for the resources that will help them get there.
5. The Service Of Simplicity
We all have a limit to our ability; a threshold in which our performance begins to yield diminishing returns if exceeded. Although we always have the opportunity to increase our capacity by challenging ourselves at new levels, we must be very careful not to compromise the quality of our work for sake of increased quantity in tasks and processes. When we are able to simplify our responsibilities, we are able to fulfill them with greater focus. As the common phrase suggests, “less is more.” As leaders, when we are able to protect others’ thresholds from being exceeded, they are freed to apply their full capacity to top priorities, without compromise, and hence able to operate at their optimal level of performance.
The most effective way to simplify someone’s workload is to take inventory of the time and resources consumed by current priorities, as well as their corresponding results. In doing so, we can prioritize responsibilities, remove redundancies, delegate where appropriate and eliminate barriers in order to optimize their performance.
While these are five highly effective services leaders may offer their teams, there are many others that high-performing servant leaders offer. For continued thought, I encourage leaders to reflect on what their specific services are, how their services work and what results their services deliver.
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