How to Practice Servant Leadership

by | Sep 6, 2022 | Leadership

There are many different styles of leadership that you can turn to for examples when building your own. Some are effective, some … not so much. The style that works best for you depends on a lot of factors like team dynamics and company culture.  

However, regardless of these factors, adopting a servant leadership mentality is one of the best things you can do in any environment. This idea is that the most effective leaders are servants to their team members, willing to do everything they can to make sure they have all the tools they need to thrive in their role.  

If you’re interested in pursuing a servant leadership approach, here are a few key tactics to focus on. 

Show your appreciation through empathy.

One of the best ways to show appreciation is through empathy. This means taking the time to get to get to know people and finding out what you can do to best serve them individually. What’s their biggest strength? What are some areas they could work on? Gathering all of this information is only going to help you support their success over time. 

Focus on developing.

As a servant leader, your primary focus should be doing everything you can to help people grow. Lots of leaders spend all their time worrying about how their business can grow. What many don’t realize is that when your people grow, your business will grow as a result. 

Give people as many opportunities as you possibly can to get better at what they do. Find all the books, webinars, training opportunities, etc. that pertain to their role and make sure they have access to them. Another key aspect of helping people develop is letting them figure things out for themselves, so make sure to give them space to do this, too. Harvey S. Firestone once said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” Make a point to practice this every day. 

Be self-aware.

Perhaps one of the most important elements of servant leadership is self-awareness. How are you affecting those around you on a daily basis? How can you improve? You have a team around you who is constantly watching how you act, respond, behave, and feel. The question is, are you aware of how you do these things? 

Steps to Practicing Self-Awareness:

  • Take time to reflect on your interactions at the end of each day. How can you be better tomorrow?
  • Ask others for feedback on how you might be able to improve.
  • Pay attention to what irritates you about other people. Oftentimes, these can reflect things we dislike about ourselves.

Listen to understand, not to respond.

Listening skills are important in all leadership capacities, but those working toward a servant leadership style should put an extreme focus on listening to understand. This is one of the best ways to make your team members feel like you truly care about what they have to say—and a great way to make sure you know what’s going on around you.  

Think about it: If you’re listening to respond, you’re more concerned about what you’re saying than what you’re hearing. But if you’re listening to understand, you’re going into the conversation with a curious and open mind and are more likely to gain something from the conversation.  

In a leadership position, it can be easy to feel like you have all the answers when talking with team members. This makes it so tempting to interrupt and take over the conversation altogether. Keep in mind, however, that one of the greatest ways to show respect, whether you’re a leader or not, is to allow someone to finish their sentence before chiming in with your thoughts. 

Servant leaders are successful because they’re willing to put the needs of their team before their own. It’s not always easy and it could require some practice, but there is no greater reward than seeing your team thrive in their roles because of the support you’ve given them. 

For more tips on being great at what you do, read our blog post here on developing mental toughness.

Glen and Joya Baker smile for the camera, surrounded by their children.
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