In the world of business, there are few personal characteristics more important than strong and effective leadership. While managers may like to believe they’re all set in that department, statistics have shown that employees may not be so confident. According to a study performed by Brandon Hall’s State of Leadership, though the most resources are dedicated to leadership development, 71 percent of companies do not feel their leaders are able or capable of leading them into the future. With this insight in mind, it’s no surprise industries are looking for a new approach to leadership. Many organizations have found success by turning to the concept of servant leadership. This concept places emphasis on serving individuals, as opposed to seeking out business goals or benchmarks. But how does this process work, and what applications might it have at work, with friends, or family?
Though the definition is generally ambiguous, many thought leaders have gone on to provide their take on what exactly makes up the servant leader. Larry Spear, who served as president of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, outlined ten significant characteristics for these types of considerate and selfless leaders. Let’s take a look to see what these characteristics look like and how they apply to work, friends, and family.
Servant Leadership Defined
Traditional leadership forms emphasize results above all else. A manager may be judged based on his team’s sales records, in the same way, a basketball coach is judged for a winning or losing record. The concept of servant leadership, however, places importance on the well-being and needs of the individuals of a team. While selflessness and empathy are not new concepts, the term was first mentioned in an essay written by Robert Greenleaf. Entitled, “The Servant as a Leader,” the Greenleaf Organization quotes on their own website, saying,
“The servant-leader is a servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first.”
We now know that servant leadership means being there for the people in a group, as well as remaining committed to helping them achieve their own goals and success. It’s a good time to peek into how this manifests in an office environment, a group of friends, or a tight-knight family circle.
Servant Leadership at Work
A servant leader in the office will often be someone who is known for “looking out for his people.” This doesn’t mean they show blind favoritism, but that they are preoccupied with making sure each individual has the resources they need to succeed on their own. This could take the form of friendly sit-downs in which the leader seeks not to discipline or increase productivity, but asks probing questions to learn how they can provide greater guidance and support. If we refer back to the ten characteristics, we can see that listening and empathy will help to further achieve their commitment to the growth of people
It might also mean taking an interest in what’s going on outside of the employee’s work life. Someone going through a tough breakup, or suffering the loss of a loved one or pet may be struggling to keep things from bleeding over into their job performance. While a traditional boss may offer a pat on the shoulder and a gentle, yet firm reminder to keep their personal life separate, a servant leader may take steps to offer guidance or even help them seek professional help.
Servant Leadership Characteristics for Work:
- Awareness: Ask coworkers or employees how they’re doing with workloads or in their personal life.
- Commitment to the Growth of People: Have one-on-ones dedicated to offering support for what they would like to achieve in their own careers.
- Empathy: When someone is having an issue, whether it’s at work or at home, spend time considering how that might be affecting their performance.
Servant Leadership with Friends
It may seem odd to consider servant leadership outside the workplace, but these tenets can play a part in any area of your life. We’ve all had our run-ins with bossy friends, the ones who want to organize every aspect of a group event or a road trip, or who spend every moment of a hangout talking about their issues or their lives. This can often leave others feeling left out, alienated, or unheard. If we apply the concept of servant leadership to interactions within a friend group, however, there’s a greater chance for deeper connections and overall happier friends
Depression and anxiety is a huge problem in America, with statistics published on Healthline suggesting that 16.2 million adults go through at least one major depressive episode every year. But while it’s a major issue, studies performed by Very Well Mind indicate that only 1 in 5 individuals will receive consistent treatment, and 37% will seek no help at all. Servant leadership is a wonderful practice for combatting these concerns with your friends. Take time to ask them how they’re doing and focus on truly listening; don’t tell them what to do or how they should feel, instead ask them how you can help. It will make your bonds tighter and could even save a life.
Servant Leadership Characteristics for Friends:
- Healing: Let your friends know that you can offer them safe spaces or relaxed places to talk if they’re feeling down or out of sorts.
- Listening: Lend an ear to your pals, even if they just need to vent.
- Foresight: Check on your friends, whether it’s the strong ones or the folks who have had issues in the past.
Servant Leadership with Family
Though there may sometimes be hesitation to delve deeply into the personal life of a sibling or a grandparent, these people are just as deserving of your love and attention. Use family gatherings as a chance to practice group servant leadership. This might mean taking time to sit down as a family and discuss how everyone’s week has been. It could also mean taking time to practice servant leadership in a more literal way, particularly by volunteering together.
Servant Leadership Characteristics for Family:
- Conceptualization: Laying out plans is a great way to get started, but work with your family to make plans on how you can volunteer and work together for greater servant leadership.
- Building Community: Your family is a community, but it’s also a part of the larger one. Reach out by group volunteering.
- Persuasion: You may need to do some convincing if this is your first time discussing issues or working with the community. Be sure to do so with grace.
Servant leadership has become a way to help the people get the most from themselves. By practicing the ten characteristics and applying these to all areas of life, including work, friends, and family, you can not only inspire others but inspire them to do the same in their own lives.