Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Servant Leadership Misconception

Leadership has evolved over the past century, though many may dispute this fact.  The most effective style has moved from the ‘commander in chief’ model to one more generally referred to as the ‘servant leader’.

The reluctance of many to adopt this new model is rooted in a misconception as to what it means to be an authentic servant leader.  They have the mistaken belief that they must become servile and do the bidding of those who work for them.  For some reason they understand that the master / servant relationship has been flipped on its head and that the employee is now the master and the leader must acquiesce to their expectations and needs. 

With this type of understanding it is not surprising that many in positions of responsibility and leadership are unwilling to adopt the model.  Frankly I don’t blame them.

But here’s the rub.  They have a faulty conception of the meaning of servant leadership and thus they rebel against it. 

Servant leadership must be viewed as one being selfless not servile.  With this proper definition, the role becomes one of empowerment, not subservience. 

The servant leader sets aside personal ambitions of recognition or acknowledgement in favour of providing for those under their scope of responsibility.  When goals are accomplished, it is team effort and team recognition first.  Clearly the leader will ultimately be recognized as the catalyst for the success.  But the recognition is for the manner in which it was accomplished, that is, by the leader facilitating the group and providing the necessary tools, guidance and training to allow others to fulfill their potential.

When you properly understand the definition of servant leadership it is much easier to adopt and apply.  By looking out for the best interests of your team first, you are elevated.  It’s a matter of priorities.  If you look first to elevate yourself, you must put others down.  But when they raise you up because of your prior concern for them, the acknowledgement is that natural outcome of your sacrifice.

Today’s employees are better educated and generally better prepared to enter the workforce than any generation in the past.  Their expectations are in line with their abilities.  They will not suffer fools because their skills are so transferable and they understand that a career may entail many employers. 

To attract and retain the best of the best, leaders must be able to acknowledge and adapt to these realities.  The servant leadership model is the one which best accommodates these expectations.  Understand what it means and how to implement it and will you find success more often than not.

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