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What Is Servant-Leadership Anyway?

Servant-leadership emphasizes a leader’s responsibility to serve the needs of their followers, prioritizing their growth, well-being, and success. Here’s a breakdown of key points:

  1. Providing Training and Resources: Servant-leaders recognize the importance of equipping their followers with the necessary tools and knowledge to excel in their roles. By investing in training and providing resources, they empower their team members to perform at their best.
  2. Removing Obstacles: Servant-leaders actively work to eliminate barriers that hinder their followers’ effectiveness. This can include anything from bureaucratic red tape to interpersonal conflicts, creating a smoother path for the team to achieve their goals.
  3. Ensuring Basic Needs and Safety: Beyond just professional development, servant-leaders prioritize the well-being of their followers. This involves ensuring that their basic needs are met and that they feel physically and psychologically safe in their work environment.
  4. Fostering Belonging and Connection: Servant-leaders cultivate a sense of belonging and camaraderie within their team. By creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and connected to the organization’s mission, they foster a stronger sense of loyalty and commitment among their followers.
  5. Adhering to Organizational Values: Servant-leaders lead by example, upholding the core values and principles of the organization. They make decisions that align with these values, ensuring consistency and integrity in their leadership approach.
  6. Leading with Dignity and Respect: Servant-leaders treat their followers with dignity and respect, valuing their contributions and perspectives. They recognize the inherent worth of each individual and strive to create a culture of mutual respect and appreciation.
  7. No Expectation of Servitude: While servant-leaders prioritize serving their followers, they do not expect blind loyalty or servitude in return. Instead, they trust that by serving their followers, they will in turn be motivated to serve the greater goals of the organization and its mission.

The essence of servant-leadership is leading with selfless service, empathy, and ethical leadership. I liken it to what I call Iron-Sharpened Leadership which includes the elements of character, competence, and resilience.  These elements focus on things like values, trust, providing a vision, decision-making, communication, positive energy, fitness, and vulnerability.

What Servant-Leadership Is Not

Some people may have ideas about what servant-leadership is which are misconceptions. Here are some clarifications to dispel what some people might believe about being a servant-leader:

  1. Not about Being a “Nice Guy”: Servant leadership isn’t about being liked or trying to be everyone’s best friend. While it does involve caring about the well-being of followers, it’s not primarily focused on being perceived as a “nice guy” or “good guy.” Instead, it’s about genuinely loving and caring for the growth and success of those being led.
  2. Not about Being a Pushover: Servant leadership doesn’t imply being passive or weak. Leaders still need to uphold standards and hold followers accountable for their actions. This may involve having difficult conversations and making tough decisions when to ensure that the team is performing at its best and aligning with the organization’s goals.
  3. Not about Seeking Friendship: While leaders should foster positive relationships with their followers, they should not aim to be their best friend. Maintaining appropriate professional boundaries allows leaders to effectively fulfill their roles and make objective decisions without personal biases getting in the way.

These points emphasize that servant leadership is about striking a balance between caring for followers’ needs and being true to one’s responsibilities as a leader, while also ensuring accountability and maintaining professional boundaries. These clarifications help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that servant leadership is practiced effectively.

Servant-leaders serve their followers in ways outlined above while followers serve the organization and its goals and mission.

About John Gronski

Major General John L. Gronski (U.S. Army Retired) is the founder and CEO of Leader Grove LLC, a leadership consulting firm. John is the author of two books, “Iron-Sharpened Leadership” and “The Ride of Our Lives” and is an international and Fortune 500 speaker. Learn more about John at https://johngronski.com/

Continue To Learn

Visit John Gronski’s website, JohnGronski.com to access free leadership development resources including a downloadable leadership pamphlet, John’s YouTube Channel, and John’s leadership blog.

There are also leadership development resources you can invest in by going to Store.LeaderGrove.com – You can purchase John’s books which include “Iron-Sharpened Leader” and “The Ride of Our Lives”. John created a great online leadership development program. You can purchase online leadership development courses including Cultivating Trust, Introduction to Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Management, and Introduction to Change Leadership. Once you complete a course, take a short quiz, attain an 80% score, and download a certificate of completion.

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