The theory of 8 principles of servant leadership is given by American author Robert K. Greenleaf. Servant leadership is a form of leadership in which the leader is more considerate and humble towards the employees. Servant leadership strives to change the traditional relationship between the management and the employees. In this article, we will look at the 8 principles of servant leadership.
The idea of servant leadership is ancient. Philosophers such as Lao Tzu, Chanakya, Cicero, Plutarch, and Xenophon have promoted the idea of servant leadership in their works.
Traditional hierarchical leadership models see leaders at the peak of the pyramid in the position of authority and power. The servant’s leadership flips this concept by placing leaders at the bottom of the pyramid in a supportive position.
In servant leadership, the leader pivots a typical leadership manuscript by placing people before power. A servant leader prioritizes the growth and welfare of the team, thereby letting go of any selfish attitude and personal ego.
Greenleaf acknowledged the need to consider the role of the organization in leadership.
Individual leaders can adopt the servant leadership approach but unless they can function consistently in an organization that is in harmony with the approach, their success will be limited.
Therefore Greenleaf promotes the thought of the organization to become servants, and in fact, strongly believed that the servant leader organization can change the world.
What are the 8 Principles of Servant Leadership?
Foresight is one of the 8 principles of servant leadership that allows servant leaders to understand echoes from the past, existing reality, and the consequences of upcoming events. Servant leaders greatly reflect on their experience and ability to take advantage of previous decisions to improve their decision-making for the future.
For some people, this quality comes naturally, but for others, they need to actively strive to achieve foresight. Maintaining a journal or allocating time every week for reflection and learning can be an effective way to develop a more reflective approach to your leadership.
Greenleaf’s view of all institutions is that all leaders (CEOs, staff, directors, guardians, etc.) must play an important role in building their institutions for greater community trust. Being a servant applies the highest interest in the responsibilities you have as a leader and you have to enforce your efforts in tune with that responsibility.
Being a steward in your approach ensures that your leadership is ethical, authentic, and focused on more than just profit. In other words, lead with examples and modesty of modeling roles in leadership.
The main feature of servant leadership is that they get followers through persuasion and collaboration, as opposed to several other leadership approaches that make use of power, authority, and delegation. Persuasion is one of the 8 principles of servant leadership. Another way in seeing this principle is that servant leaders can persuade and convince others to follow them, rather than forcing them to become obedient.
It is important not to think of negative persuasions, such as deceiving someone through persuasion or trying to persuade someone to sell. Instead, we consider persuasion in connection with the desire of servant leaders to use intuition to build consensus and get performance from the employees. Using this approach ensures that everyone believes in the vision and is personally invested in their achievements and collective efforts.
Being a servant leader, one has to empathize effectively with others. Empathy is one of the 8 principles of servant leadership. It is important to recognize and accept people for their uniqueness and understand their perspectives.
The better you understand individuals on your team, the more effective you can support and serve them. In turn, this will increase team performance. Knowing the virtues, strengths, weaknesses, aims, aspirations, and career goals of your employees will go a long way in maintaining a positive relationship with your employees.
As a leader, you must have a clear understanding of what you and your organization aspire to achieve. Without this clarity, you will lack direction and vision. Servant leaders can effectively conceptualize the situation they encounter. This requires a prognosis of the situation and awareness of the options available.
It is important to have the ability to conceptualize the future without being too limited by daily activities. You need to have the ability to understand and navigate existing activities while maintaining a long-term vision that is harmonized.
Having a good awareness of yourself and others is a quality commonly found among servant leaders. Awareness is one of the 8 principles of servant leadership. Understanding your strengths and virtues, as well as your weaknesses and areas for development, are very important for your growth and development in becoming a servant leader.
It is also important to understand your team’s relative strengths and weaknesses, overall and as individuals.
If you have a good understanding of your abilities and your team’s abilities, you will be better placed to direct yourself and others towards the benefit of the organization. However, awareness should not be limited to individual abilities, awareness can also refer to culture, climate, and work environment and how leaders can adapt, empathize and respond in the right way.
When everyone understands how their current work contributes to the company’s mission, it can be very motivating. As part of this, encourage members of your team and employees to help each other achieve their individual and team goals. This helps in encouraging responsibility and helps your company to grow together.
Healing does not refer to physical healing but to healing at a more holistic level. This can be achieved through discussion, coaching, assistance, and relationship-oriented leadership styles.
Some team members may have a challenging life outside of work, some may have experienced difficult work situations and relationships with previous managers/leaders, and some may have experienced a negative work culture in other employers.
These challenges may be long-term and chronic or they can occur in people intermittently throughout their lives. Effective servant leaders will be able to identify these problems and provide healing by creating a positive and supportive work environment, and by ensuring each individual is assessed and equipped with the tools they need to succeed.
Communication is a two-way process and many leaders will be very good at talking but less at listening. Effective servant leaders can listen to respect others and act on the information they receive. Listening is the center of servant leadership. Listening is one of the 8 principles of servant leadership.
When one of your team members speaks, give them your full attention and actively listen to what they say.
But part of adopting servant leadership is to release a dictatorial approach. Instead, try to embrace the activities and actions of employees such as looking for your team’s opinion on big results, especially where the decision involves their work, and consider relevant feedback.
This will involve you giving them the ability to speak without interruption, actively listening to what they say, and respond in a meaningful way. Listening is a skill that is much needed in any workplace.
Listening to your employees will help you in developing a cordial bond with your subordinates. Listening will ensure that any grievances of the employees get rectified immediately.
Top 5 benefits of servant leadership
1. Better collaboration, stronger team
Seeing their leaders as role models, employees often embrace the value of service to teammates.
2. Positive work environment
Workplace interactions tend to be more constructive when a leader supports and builds other people towards a common goal, rather than complaining to them with each other for leaders’ profits.
3. Employee commitment, trust, and loyalty
Empowering employees under the servant’s leadership model promotes harmony between their sense of purpose and the overall mission of the company.
4. Greater organizational agility
Supporting employees and teams at a lower level to make decisions, have more responsibilities, and have the skills and tools to do their work means they can quickly respond and adapt when conditions or needs change.
5. Supporting the culture of owning
Employees feel valued, recognized, and appreciated when a leader sees them as individuals and emphasizes the importance of their contribution to work. By support, we not only mean financial support in times of distress but also moral support when things do not go as per plan. Providing moral support will not only help your employee’s productivity in the organization but also ensure that the spirit of fraternity is maintained in your organization.
Some of the shortcomings of servant leadership
Although encouraging servant leadership is a desirable trait, it may be difficult in times of crisis or strict deadlines to consult with everyone or rely on group consensus. To instill servant leadership, you will also often require a big shift in the attitude of each employee and company culture as a whole.
It takes time, special resources, and support from people at each level to actively work to promote servant leaders and servant leadership models.
But only because something seems difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. So, if your company is committed to adopting 8 principles of servant leadership characteristics and reaping the results, you should go ahead with the plan.