What can I do to advance servant leadership in my workplace?
Much servant leadership advocacy focuses on the intrinsic value of servant leadership or the benefits it provides when practiced – in other words, on making the case for servant leadership in the abstract.
People often agree with that case, but respond, “yes, but how?”
The answer to that question might involve practical ways in which you can become a better servant-leader; for example, by improving listening skills, by taking time to withdraw and reorient yourself or by investing in the development of others.
Here’s an additional way: To advance servant leadership in your workplace, follow a servant-leader.
Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term “servant leadership” in his important 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader. There he suggested two ways people could contribute to a good society. First, Greenleaf said people could take on the role of servant-leader. Second – and a way often overlooked – is to follow servant-leaders whenever appropriate:
“Many people finding their wholeness through the many and varied contributions make a good society. Here we are concerned with but one facet; able servants with the potential to lead must lead and, where appropriate, they must follow only servant leaders. Not much else counts if this does not happen.”
So, to advance servant leadership in your workplace, seek out the servant-leaders – you know who they are – and follow them. It doesn’t matter if you report to them, if they report to you, or if you have no reporting relationship at all.
Servant-leaders in your workplace will benefit from your followership and support. Encourage them. Express your appreciation and gratitude for their servant leadership. Promote their accomplishments. Introduce them to others. Spread “good gossip” about them whenever you get the chance.
In doing so, I am confident you will advance servant leadership to the benefit of all.
And what’s extra good about this approach, I might add, is that it’s in your control. What’s stopping you? You can apply it today!
As always, we appreciate hearing your thoughts. If you have any other suggestions about ways to advance servant leadership through followership, please let us know.