In Innovation

A rise in servant leadership in the seventies after Robert K. Greenleaf’s pioneer book means that service is a buzzword no one in the business game has escaped. Far from a trend or fad, the concept really has turned the idea of leadership up-side down…

Literally.

Traditional leadership often involves the employment of power at the top of a pyramid, where servant leadership takes a bottom-up approach to share power and a focus on enriching lives. Research in recent years has given rise to quantifiable, recognised ways that servant leadership has been proven to impact a workplace.

Who are servant leaders?

Servant leaders are agents of morality, who are committed to a service. By modelling positive relationships, purpose-driven action, and putting the needs of others first they improve the wellbeing of the community they serve.

 Why is service revolutionary?

Servant leadership impacts the wellbeing of their followers, the wider community, and themselves; this is an important cycle because it means that as a leader seeks to enrich the lives of others, their lives are also enriched and they are propelled to continue to serve instead of burn out, like so many business leaders do. We know that this relationship between service and personal enrichment exists because social psychologists (like Albert Bandura) have identified that the three human needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are key to general wellbeing. Through helping others, servant leaders attain personal growth which leads to enhanced wellbeing through the fulfilment of one’s own values, and their positive relationships 

How will it impact your culture?

The outcomes of service-based leadership business models vary from good, to great. Workplace cultures that support servant-hearted leadership boast reduced turnover intentions within staff, higher commitment to an organisation, and increased workplace satisfaction.

It won’t just transform a culture; it impacts an individual’s personal growth, too. Because servant leaders encourage people to express their “true self” in alignment with their values, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, it means that people usually feel more recognised and validated… Which probably isn’t the reason your organisation exists, but is certainly a welcome by-product of a leadership shift.

 What does that look like in an effective workplace?

Research has identified seven workplace habits1 that can make a difference to any organisational culture:

  1. A leader who puts “subordinates” or staff first
  2. Helping staff grow and succeed, both personally and professionally
  3. A leader who seeks to empower
  4. Placing value in emotional healing
  5. Creating value for the community
  6. A team who behaves ethically
  7. A leader who grows a team’s conceptual skills

1 Liden, R. C., Wayne, H. Zhao, & Henderson, D. (2008). Servant leadership: Development of a multidimensional measure and multi-level assessment, Leadership Quarterly, 19(2), 161-177.

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