Often people shun the concept of servant leadership making the misguided assumption that it is ‘soft’ leadership. In the book, THE SERVANT LEADER, retired business manager and author, James Autry dispels that myth. Autry doesn’t ask the reader to be a “touchy-feely” type of leader, he asks that you treat your people the way you would want to be treated in their position. Before you address an employee, think about that person being your spouse, son, daughter or someone else you care deeply about. How would you want their supervisor to address them in this situation?
He boils servant leadership down to its essence with five basic principles.
Be Authentic – Be who you are. Don’t try to fake it. Do try to represent something different or present some persona that just isn’t you. We’ve all known people who acted one way at work, but when you got to know them on a personal level away from work, you were surprised to find them to be totally different. That’s because at work they are not being authentic. They are trying to represent themselves as someone else.
Be Vulnerable – Being vulnerable is a frightening concept for many. You’re afraid your people might view you as, well, vulnerable. In truth, being vulnerable requires a great deal of courage. It takes tremendous self-confidence to tell a subordinate, “I made a bad decision.”
This is especially difficult for male managers because we are brought up to ‘stand firm’ and to not show feelings. But think about it this way – you also want your people to respect you, right? You’ll earn a lot more respect when you have the ability to admit, “I was wrong”.
Be Accepting – Acceptance is far more important than approval. If an employee disagrees with other team members that doesn’t make them “not a team player”, it makes them of a different opinion. As a leader it’s important to understand that they have a different view. As well they should. We’re not all made of the same mold. We have different backgrounds and upbringing – we went to different schools and had different parents. We’re not going to all think alike.
Acceptance also means a person’s personal life is not your business, as long as it does not interview with job performance. This is very difficult for some. I’ve had employees that I strongly disagreed with their lifestyle choices or even political leanings, but they were good employees that kept these things separate from their work life. Notice I did say, “as long as it doesn’t interfere with job performance.” When a person’s personal decisions, such as grooming habits, begin to interfere with job performance, it’s time to stop being accepting and start addressing the issue.
Be Present – A big part of being in a management position means we are often focused on the past and the future. We pour over financial results that have already occurred and other tracking metrics used so that hopefully we can adjust for the future. We are absorbed with doing this day in and day out, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the here and now.
Be Useful – Like it or not, when you took on the role of team leader, you took on the responsibility of being the primary resource for your team. Imagine their frustration when they turn to you for answers and you have no answers to give and show no willingness to find the answer they need.
This may require a shift in thinking on your part. After all, you worked hard to gain your position and now I’m asking you to be a resource. Many in management positions feel their people are there to serve their needs, but in fact – you are there to serve theirs.
There are a number of good books available on servant leadership to choose from, but I would place this one near the top of that list. If you want to take your leadership to the next level, add this to your reading list.
Monty Rainey is a District Manager working in the self storage industry since 1996 and currently overseeing 21 stores in the Austin & San Antonio, TX area. He is also a leadership coach and public speaker. For a free consultation, please contact Monty at 830-743-2139 or visit his website at http://www.montyrainey.com .
- “Servant Leadership” is not associated with the concept of being weak! (3dimensionallife.wordpress.com)
- Servant Leadership From A Quarterback (chrislocurto.com)
- Leadership Upside Down: Herb Kelleher Style (bornleader.net)
- How to Lead in the Kingdom of God, Part 1 by Mark D. Roberts (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)
- servant leadership (karenkleinman.wordpress.com)