Servant leadership can look different in different contexts.
Maybe that’s why there are so many lists of good servant leadership practices.
Here are the top 3 practices of servant-leaders in the workplace context.
1. Extreme Listening.
Listening is one of the most important practices of servant leadership – maybe the single most important practice.
In his important 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader, Robert K. Greenleaf writes:
“I have a bias about this that suggests that only a true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first.”
Servant-leaders listen extremely, both broadly and deeply. And they listen comprehensively – to what is being said and to what is not being said – to the verbal and to the nonverbal.
Furthermore, and in a manner of speaking, servant-leaders are always “listening to the future” by exercising foresight.
Show me a good servant-leader in the workplace and I’ll show you a person who listens first, asks good questions and never drowns out or talks over a colleague.
2. Purposeful Delegating.
Servant-leaders at work delegate at different levels.
At a high level (especially if they are managers), servant-leaders determine who is best suited for a particular role on a team or project. Then they help match talent to task.
Greenleaf’s friend, Peter Drucker, is considered the founder of modern management science. Once Drucker was asked, “What is the most important decision an executive makes?”
“Who does what.”
There you have it – the importance of high-level delegation in three words!
At a day-to-day level, servant-leaders know the importance of good delegation skills to high-performing individuals, teams and organizations.
Likewise, servant-leaders know the potential for damage done by good delegation’s evil twin – micromanagement.
I believe that what distinguishes a servant-leader from any other good delegator is the servant leadership reasons for doing so.
Servant-leaders delegate purposefully to share power, to develop people, to build trust and – last but not least – to form more leaders.
3. Connecting followers to mission
Servant-leaders always have a goal – a destination to which they are leading others on a shared mission.
At work, servant-leaders make a regular practice of connecting their followers to the mission. One way, Greenleaf reminds us, is simply by making that goal hard to forget:
“By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty and purpose to others who may have difficulty in achieving it for themselves.”
Recent research shows that best way to keep team members energized and engaged is to make sure they stay connected to mission.
Servant-leaders do that in lots of ways. They flaunt their mission, recite it, recruit with it, onboard with it and help their team members experience it directly.
What do you think? Are there practices you would add? Subtract?
Let us know.*
As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!
NOTE ON THE IMAGE ABOVE (Carnegie Hall, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons):
A tourist comes up to a New Yorker on a Manhattan street and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The New Yorker replies, “Practice, practice, practice!”
*You might find these posts of interest. Enjoy!
Extreme listening: “6 Things Listening Communicates”
Purposeful delegating: “4 Distinctive Reasons Servant-Leaders Delegate”
Connecting followers to mission: “5 Ways to Stay Connected to the Company Mission”