An Introduction to Models of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a philosophy that prioritizes the needs of employees over the success of your organization. The shared power structure helps your company focus on employee development and service to others. The emphasis on service inspires employees to build trust with each other and match their purpose with your company’s. 


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What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is a management philosophy that highlights the improvement of employees working for your company. The attention given to employee development aids in your company’s growth and contributes to the society your employees live in. The combination of enhancing your company’s culture and caring for your employees demonstrates how your company motivates them to elevate their performance. 


Why is servant leadership important?

Servant leadership is important because it helps your company’s leadership team incorporate this philosophy into their roles. For instance, a project manager for a non-profit organization uses servant leadership to communicate and delegate responsibilities to each employee. They explicitly define the impact each task has on its mission and society. The project manager looks at the performance of employees as an opportunity for growth. They provide positive reinforcement when giving feedback to them and create an action plan to improve their performance. 


A servant leader underscores the need for diligence and commitment instead of solely focusing on metrics. This mindset allows employees to offer their opinion on growing your company. Letting employees voice their opinions of your company gives them the impression that they can show authenticity at work and influence business decisions.


How to become a servant leader

Here are steps to becoming a servant leader: 

1. Discuss with your employees about how your company can support them 

Set up a meeting with employees to discuss how your company’s servant leadership model can serve their needs. Listening to their advice on how to support employees helps you identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Their advice details what actions you can take to improve their experience in the workplace. Take notes on proposed solutions given by employees and hold a vote deciding if your company should enact them. If there is a majority vote, set up a plan to implement their solutions to promote their vitality and engagement. 


2. Update your company’s organization chart 

Reorganize your company’s organization chart to allow your employees more involvement with your company. Revising your organization chart clarifies the roles each employee has when speaking to clients or approving internal changes within your company. Make sure the CEO stays at the top of the organization chart to show that they have the final approval on organizational changes. Changes to the organization chart encourage conversation and dissent, which foster inclusivity and engagement from all levels of the organization.


3. Invite customers to servant leadership training 

Invite customers to assist with servant leadership training to see how your employees can enhance their experience with your company. It gives your employees the chance to speak with customers and identify areas of improvement related to customer service, project management and execution, sales and other areas. 

When customers participate directly in your company’s development they feel more connected to your company. Communicate the goal of growing relationships and cooperation with customers and employees. Employees understand how they can tailor their conversations once they know your expectations of a successful training session. 


Examples of servant leadership

Here is an example of servant leadership: 

Jesse is the CEO of a volunteer organization that provides meals for the homeless. She creates a goal of serving 50,000 people within the Nashville area by the end of the year. Jesse creates a plan that can reach this benchmark with four events in the summer and around the holidays. 


After communicating this plan to employees, employees said that the organization can make a larger impact if they held smaller events throughout the calendar year instead of driving their attention toward a few major events. Jesse made adjustments to the company’s budget and rescheduled two events to the spring. 


Jesse increased the budget to provide training sessions to give employees direction for future events. She gathered a list of areas of personal growth from employees to address at the training session. After the conclusion of the training session, employees gave positive feedback on the session and stated that they felt a part of the organization. 


Following the conclusion of the year’s events, the organization exceeded its goal and served 70,000 people in the Nashville area. Jesse hired 15 more volunteers to meet the demand of people coming to their events. She scheduled more training sessions to acclimate new employees and increase the skill set of existing volunteers. 


Servant leadership FAQs

Here are frequently asked questions about servant leadership: 


What are the different models of servant leadership?

The different characteristics of servant leadership include:


  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to the growth of people and building a community from your company’s efforts


How can I use servant leadership to improve my company’s culture?

A strong company culture with a servant-leadership paradigm ensures people from different departments interact with each other in some way. Schedule feedback sessions for employees to generate ideas on how to improve your company. Randomize groups to encourage discussion from employees in their assigned groups and find out if their feedback is actionable. Schedule volunteer events with local organizations to foster teamwork and the creation of new relationships. 


How can display my commitment to employee growth?

Involve your employees in determining the goals of your company. Employees know you value them if they are able to offer valued opinions regarding high-level decisions for your company. Give feedback on the goals they propose and approve them if they align with your vision for your company’s future. Provide tools and resources for employees to execute your company’s goals. Giving adequate resources to employees conveys the message that you want to see your team succeed despite the outcome.


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