Servant leadership is more than a philosophy; it’s a daily practice of behaviors. By practicing the following, you’ll be a leader who stands out both in your work and personal life. You’ll be a leader people want to follow – simply because of who you are as a person.
These nine ways to practice being a servant leader will not only change the way you manage your staff. They will transform the way you and your team function together.
1) Have a Serve First mindset in all you do
Your job as a servant leader is to inspire and equip the people you influence. This does not come naturally for most people.
Serving can be as simple as not always rushing to be the first in the potluck line, or as complex as sincerely examining your motives as you approach each encounter (i.e., am I going into this meeting wanting to control everything, or do I want to serve the needs of the team?).
There is a multitude of ways we can serve the people in our work teams. Your influence in your organization will spread as people learn you value servant leadership.
2) Build trust simply by doing what you said you would
Keep commitments. Of course, trust is a two-way street; if you want to be trusted, you must also extend trust to others. Building trusted relationships will deeply enhance your reputation within your organization.
3) Live your values at work
When you live your values at work, making decisions becomes much easier. And when your personal values and the organization’s are clearly stated, being a leader is easier as well, since employees will have a clear understanding of how to behave appropriately.
When company and personal values are in sync, you experience the peace that comes from being your genuine self 24/7.
4) Make sure you listen to understand
Many leaders believe they are great listeners. As a servant leader, you need to take a deeper look and evaluate your listening skills.
Do you start to listen but then jump in to interrupt because you feel you have the answer? Do you multi-task when you are supposed to be listening?
“Can you tell me more?” and “Can you help me understand?” are two valuable questions to use when communicating. When you listen to understand, people feel valued. You are able to build relationships with them that increase your effectiveness as a team.
5) Focus on thinking about your thinking
In servant leadership, you must become very conscious about your own thinking in ALL relationships. You must ask yourself important questions:
- Am I willing to listen to honest feedback?
- Am I willing to consider my responsibility in any situation?
- How am I presenting the mission and purpose of the organization?
- Am I displaying a positive attitude about it or am I one of the naysayers?
Taking time to reflect on your leadership and examining why you react in a certain way to adverse circumstances will help you grow.
6) Be a leader who knows it’s important to add value to others
Are you a leader who consistently adds value? Or are you the type of leader who always has to take the credit in some way?
In servant leadership, people look for ways to add value using their skills and strengths throughout the organization. They do not limit their thoughts or actions to their particular department.
7) Servant leadership needs you to demonstrate courage
When you demonstrate courage, you don’t avoid the uncomfortable issues you must face as a leader each day. Many of us have experienced the problem employee who just keeps getting shuffled around because leaders don’t want to deal with him or her.
Perhaps you recognize that your own performance is NOT what it should be, and you are afraid to face it. Be brave enough to face these situations and if necessary, ask for help. This can only result in your organization (and you) becoming healthier and more successful.
8) Spread your influence
Servant leadership means spreading your influence to add value. You can do this through role modeling, coaching, and mentoring. But the bottom line is that you have to care and invest in others.
Motive and influence both reflect your heart. Together, they can be powerful. Jackie Robinson said:
“A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.”
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t influence anyone. The people in your organization and your personal life are always watching.
9) Live your transformation
Living your life as a servant leader starts in your heart, but it also requires action to serve others. It isn’t that difficult to live your transformation with those you like as individuals, or with others who share the same values and desire to live their lives for the sake of others.
It will be a real challenge, though, to live your transformation with those you may NOT get along with or who may not share your values, or your desire to serve others.
To summarize, here are the servant leadership behaviors re-stated, along with some thought-provoking questions:
- Serve First — In each encounter, ask the question, “How can I serve you?”
- Build Trust — Are you trustworthy? Are you willing to extend trust to others?
- Live Your Values — What are your values? To live them, you must first define them.
- Listen to Understand — Do you talk more than you listen? Can you set aside all distractions and be present for people?
- Think About Your Thinking — What is your attitude as a leader? Are your thoughts about yourself or others holding you back?
- Add Value to Others — Are you a leader who consistently adds value? Do you always have to take the credit?
- Demonstrate Courage — Are you willing to make tough decisions and follow through on them? Do you keep your commitments?
- Increase Your Influence — Will you do what is right even when it may produce an unpopular outcome? Do you strive to be open and authentic with NO hidden agendas?
- Live Your Transformation — If you have something, do you share it? If you need something, do you ask for it?
Focus on changing your behaviors one step at a time. You may want to start by working on just two or three. Practicing them consistently is not easy. But by incorporating them into your day-to-day leadership, you’ll find the effect on your career is immense.
Plus, the effect on you as a person will be beyond words. You’ll stand out in the crowd and your leadership will bring you success with significance.