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19 traits of a servant leader (and why you should become one)

Published 5th December 2013 by IIP Scotland

Ever since the term ‘servant leader’ was coined in the 1970’s by Robert Greenleaf the phrase has been met with some scepticism by members of the business community. With contemporary leaders such as David Marquet and Adam Grant now addressing the subject however, there has never been a more relevant time to discuss the attributes of a servant leader. 

Servant leadership encompasses leaders serving and empowering their employees to be efficient and effective within their roles while maintaining a positive sense of wellbeing. Adam Grant has argued that servant leaders are not only more highly regarded than others by their employees, they feel better about themselves at the end of the day and are more productive as well.

Would this then, not be a more conducive relationship for employer and employee alike?

With this in mind, we bring you the 19 key attributes of a servant leader:-

1. Sells instead of tells

Bringing people on-board with your reasoning is critical in having your team listen to you.

2. Openness

In too many organisations it is accepted that the truth is not told, or is actively hidden, from employees. By keeping them informed on all decisions that may affect them, you are far more likely to maintain their buy-in and trust.

3. Helps people with life issues

The servant leader will look to improve the wellbeing of his team by looking out for them outwith of the working environment and within their home life.

4. Commitment to the growth of others

This is one of the key components to servant leadership. By helping your employees grow and develop they become better at their jobs while also growing in confidence and developing as people.  This in turn helps organisations to become more effective and ultimately profitable.

5. Empathy

Having empathy means that you can relate to your team and understand what their needs are.

6. Awareness

Having an all-round awareness of the business and needs of the people is required to be able to understand how to best serve them.

7. Ability to listen

Being able to listen to the needs and wants of employees is critical in fostering a positive relationship.

8. Foresight

By learning from past experiences and outcomes, servant leaders can utilise foresight to best guess how scenarios will play out.

9. Stewardship

Servant leaders consider themselves to be the steward of an organisation, rather than an owner or director.  They may be holding it to pass on to future generations or in trust for society at large.

10. Think you, not me

Servant leaders are aware that ultimately it is not about them, but about the people and the organisation.  As such, they will focus on others rather than themselves.

11. Can build communities

Within their organisation, the servant leader will try and build communities as a means to engage employees.

12. Values diverse opinions

Servant leaders will try and seek out a wide range of opinions before making a decision.

13. Cultivates a culture of trust

Trust is crucial in servant leadership.  In order that they may best be able to serve employees, it is important that employees know and trust the leader.

14. The past is the past

It’s imperative that past mistakes and disappointments don’t cloud your judgement and vision moving forward. Be prepared to let go of the past and look to the future with clarity.

15. Develops other leaders

By serving others, other leaders will begin to merge.  By embracing this possibility rather than rejecting it, the servant leader can build trust with others and develop both employees and his organisation.

16. Encourages

Encouragement is one of the key themes to servant leadership.

17. Thinks long term

The servant leader will be considering the future of the organisation and who will be the employees of the future, today.

18. Acts with humility

The servant leader knows that he does not have all the answers and when the time requires it, he will act with humility.

19. Heals

Servant leaders will seek to heal broken relationships aware that once fixed, they are stronger than one that has never been broken.

Fascinating. But why would I implement this in my organisation?

Good question.  The above points on their own are nice qualities that most business leaders would probably agree with.  Think about the USP of your business though. Whether it’s quality, price or customer service, the only thing that is absolutely unique to your business is your people.

Having great employees that are engaged, want to do the work and believe in the management of an organisation are the backbone to a successful organisation, and servant leaders are a great way to bring out the best from a team.

At Investors in People we understand leadership. Our IIP Specialists work with organisations utilising many different styles of leadership, including servant leadership.

Want to know how it could help make a difference within your organisation? We’d be delighted to help. Give us a call today on 0131 625 0155 to organise a free consultation.

Used with permission from www.rgbstock.com 2014