A servant leader prioritizes the needs of their team above their own. They guide, nurture, and support their followers.
Servant leadership is not just about being nice. It provides tangible benefits on all sorts of business goals, from enhancing employee engagement to upholding ethical standards.
Join me as I break down the many benefits of servant leadership. I hope you’ll find inspiration for how you can adopt this leadership style and use it to transform your organization.
1. Servant Leadership Enhances Employee Engagement
By focusing on the well-being and growth of employees, a servant leader cultivates an environment where employees are eager to invest their best efforts.
Consider a high-pressure situation where a project deadline is approaching, and the team is lagging behind. A traditional leader might react by asserting authority, emphasizing the looming deadline, and perhaps even assigning blame. They will focus on the “what” – in this case, the tasks that need completion.
A servant leader would approach this differently. They’d first understand the “why” – why the team is behind. Is there a resource gap? Are there unforeseen challenges? By addressing these underlying issues and supporting the team in overcoming them, the servant leader not only provides a solution but also showcases genuine concern for the team’s wellbeing.
When team members see a leader invested in their success and challenges, they naturally feel valued. Feeling valued comes from knowing that your contributions matter, that you’re more than just a cog in a machine. This recognition supports a deep sense of engagement, motivating employees to be proactive, take ownership, and genuinely care about their work.
2. Servant Leadership Boosts Employee Wellbeing and Satisfaction
Beyond engagement, there’s another pivotal aspect to consider: the holistic well-being and satisfaction of your team members. Engagement can exist without contentment, but when both align, that’s when you’re likely to see a workforce that is unstoppable.
Imagine a team member who consistently delivers high-quality work but recently hit a snag and missed a milestone. A traditional leader might immediately jump to performance evaluations, perhaps even consider if the employee is still a good fit for the role. A traditional leader focuses on the output and the recent dip.
Now, let’s think of a servant leader’s approach. They would look beyond the missed milestone and aim to understand the root cause. Has something changed in the employee’s personal life? Are there new challenges they’re grappling with, either inside or outside of the office?
By seeking to comprehend the underlying factors and showing genuine concern, a servant leader establishes a culture where employees feel safe — safe to discuss challenges, seek assistance, and even make mistakes occasionally.
This approach does wonders for employee well-being. When people know they aren’t just valued for their immediate output but for their holistic contribution and potential, it drastically improves their job satisfaction and their work performance.
I probably don’t need to tell you that talent retention is as crucial as talent acquisition. Replacing an employee costs a lot – for recruitment, retraining, and ramping up. So, do yourself a favor – retain the employees you have! Go the extra mile to make sure they’re fulfilled. It’s a lot cheaper than losing them, especially if you just need to change the way you lead.
3. Servant Leadership Shapes a Positive Organizational Culture
Servant leadership emphasizes support and understanding. This is a great foundation for empathetic behaviors and inclusive interactions.
Consider what would happen if a team consistently failed to meet a specific quarterly goal. A traditional leader might quickly change strategies or even team members to get the goal back on track. They prioritize the end result, but at the expense of the process and people involved.
Now, think about the reaction of a servant leader. They would likely convene the team, delve into the challenges faced, and brainstorm solutions. Instead of dictating a new direction, they’d facilitate a discussion, encouraging feedback from all levels. The message sent is clear: challenges are opportunities for growth, not blame.
Thus, a servant leader shapes a culture where the journey is as important as the destination, and every team member is a valued participant.
4. Servant Leadership Fosters Innovation and Creativity
You’ve seen companies rise and fall based on their ability to adapt. And while many factors fuel innovation, leadership style sits prominently among them. Servant leadership creates an environment conducive to free-thinking, experimentation, and innovation.
Imagine an employee comes forward with a novel idea, albeit one that deviates from the tried-and-true methods the company has always relied upon. A traditional leader, anchored to established practices, might dismiss the idea quickly, leaning on the age-old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
On the flip side, a servant leader sees this as an opportunity. They would invite a deeper exploration of the idea, possibly even setting up a pilot project or a brainstorming session to refine it further. The servant leader’s response isn’t rooted in blind optimism but in a genuine belief in the potential of their team members.
Such an approach does two things: First, it sends a message to employees that their ideas are valued, which in turn encourages more out-of-the-box thinking. Second, it cultivates a culture where risks, within reason, are not shunned but embraced. After all, every significant breakthrough in history came with its share of risk.
By empowering employees, recognizing their potential, and embracing a mindset of continuous evolution, servant leaders encourage creativity. And in a world where differentiation often spells success, this can be your competitive edge.
5. Servant Leadership Promotes Continuous Learning
In business, standing still is moving backward. To remain relevant, continuous learning is imperative, and servant leadership can help.
Suppose a project doesn’t go as planned, leading to unexpected outcomes. A traditional leader might see this as a failure, focusing on the setback and possibly even implementing tighter controls to prevent a recurrence. The emphasis is on avoiding mistakes at all costs.
Contrast this with a servant leader’s approach. A servant leader will view the same situation as a learning opportunity. Instead of reprimanding the team, they’d initiate a debrief, dissecting what went wrong, what went right, and how things can be improved in the future. The process isn’t about pointing fingers. Instead, the goal is to help the team understand, evolve, and grow.
This behavior creates a mindset shift for your team. When mistakes are treated as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks, it promotes a culture of curiosity and exploration. Employees become eager to stretch their boundaries, seek feedback, and consistently upskill, knowing that every experience is a chapter in their learning journey.
6. Servant Leadership Enhances Team Collaboration
Servant leadership, with its emphasis on collective growth and shared objectives, naturally nurtures a collaborative atmosphere.
Take, for instance, a situation where there’s a critical decision to be made about a project’s direction. A traditional leader might make the decision in isolation or with only a select few, perhaps due to a belief in efficiency or a desire to maintain control. The goal is swift decision-making, even if it sidelines the collective voice.
Now, envision a servant leader’s response. They would likely convene a meeting with the involved parties, ensuring that a diverse set of perspectives is heard. They’d facilitate open dialogue, valuing the input from both seasoned managers and fresh hires. The goal is to ensure that the path chosen is enriched by the collective intelligence of the team.
This approach underscores the principle that every team member, regardless of rank or tenure, has a valuable perspective to offer. When people feel their insights are genuinely sought and valued, it nurtures a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation. Barriers break down, silos dissolve, and what you’re left with is a cohesive unit working toward shared goals.
7. Servant Leadership Strengthens Conflict Resolution
Diverse personalities, competing interests, and varying perspectives can occasionally clash. Yet, it’s not the presence of conflict but how it’s managed that defines an organization’s health.
Imagine a scenario: Two team members have a disagreement about the direction of a project, leading to a heated debate and a clear impasse. A traditional leader might step in and make an authoritative decision. Efficiency is achieved, sure, but at what cost? The underlying issues might remain unaddressed, and the parties involved might feel unheard.
Now, envision the approach of a servant leader. Instead of imposing a solution, they’d facilitate a dialogue between the involved parties. They would actively listen, show appropriate empathy, and ensure each side feels acknowledged. The focus would shift from “solving” the conflict to understanding its roots and collaboratively finding a way forward.
This nuanced approach achieves several things. Firstly, by addressing the root causes, it ensures that conflicts, once resolved, don’t resurface repeatedly. Secondly, by actively involving the conflicting parties in the resolution process, it empowers them, reinforcing the idea that they are central to the solution (not just the problem).
Ultimately, you’ll turn conflicts into opportunities for growth, understanding, and stronger team cohesion.
8. Servant Leadership Supports Authentic Leadership
Servant leadership can help you be a more authentic, accountable leader.
Consider a scenario where a significant mistake has been made in the organization, and it’s drawing external criticism. A traditional leader, driven by concerns about image or reputation, might distance themselves from the mistake, possibly attributing it to a specific department or individual. The priority? Safeguarding their image and perhaps the broader company reputation.
Contrast this with the response of a servant leader. They would step forward, taking responsibility and showing vulnerability. They’d acknowledge the oversight, communicate the steps being taken to address it, and express genuine commitment to ensuring such mistakes are minimized in the future. Their focus isn’t on deflecting blame but on transparency, authenticity, accountability, and improvement.
By choosing transparency over evasion, the servant leader not only strengthens their bond with their team but also earns the respect of external stakeholders. Team members, seeing this genuine approach, are more likely to rally behind the leader, supporting team unity.
9. Servant Leadership Reinforces Organizational Resilience and Agility
Servant leadership, with its emphasis on collective problem solving, is particularly effective in helping leaders face unforeseen challenges, adapt to change, and navigate ambiguity
Imagine a situation where a sudden market shift threatens the viability of a long-planned product launch. A traditional leader might respond with a rigid adherence to the original plan, driven by the sunk costs and time invested.
Servant leaders tend to be more agile. A servant leader is more likely to recognize the change in landscape, get insights from their team, and brainstorm adaptive strategies.
This adaptability offers a twofold advantage. On one hand, it ensures the organization remains nimble, able to respond effectively to immediate challenges. On the other, it fosters a culture where change isn’t feared but accepted as an opportunity for reinvention.
10. Servant Leadership Cultivates Talent and Growth
Servant leadership nurtures and elevates a team’s capabilities, which is important to long-term success.
Let’s think about an intern who has shown potential but is not ready for a promotion. A traditional leader might view this as a mismatch for the company and let them go. Their focus is to ensure immediate performance metrics are met.
A servant leader is more likely to recognize the intern’s potential, taking into account the broader picture of their skillset. They might arrange for mentoring, additional training, or even a temporary role shift to align better with the intern’s strengths.
This genuine respect for your intern has the potential to endear them to you, boost their morale, and increase their engagement. On top of that, when your other employees see how committed you are to your team, there’s a good chance you’ll see them return the same commitment back to you with their energy, creativity, and loyalty to your organization.
One final bonus – your commitment to helping employees might leak out! Then, you’ll find yourself surrounded by high quality prospective talents from outside your organization who want to work for you. These are the best types of workers – those who prioritize working at a company that will help them grow.
11. Servant Leadership Aids in Strategic Succession Planning
Servant leadership offers an advantage in succession planning by fostering an environment that identifies, nurtures, and prepares future leaders from within.
Let’s say a key leader in your organization is nearing retirement. A traditional leader might look externally, focusing on hiring a high-profile replacement, often with an impressive resume but little understanding of the company’s unique culture and nuances. Their objective is to secure a seemingly “safe” bet based on external accomplishments.
In contrast, remember that a servant leader is deeply invested in the growth and development of their team. A servant leader would have been cultivating potential successors from within the organization over the years, practically from the time a team member joins the firm. They’d recognize the value of internal talent who not only have the necessary skills but also a deep understanding of the organization’s values, challenges, and goals. Their approach would be to develop and elevate from within, ensuring continuity and alignment with the organization’s ethos.
Hiring from within provides a smoother transition during leadership changes, minimizing disruptions and maintaining momentum. In addition, you’re ensuring that the organization’s legacy and vision are carried forward by those who understand it best, assuring both continuity and adaptability.
12. Servant Leadership Upholds High Standards of Governance and Ethics
Trust in organizations is paramount, and maintaining it requires a commitment to the highest standards of governance and ethics. Servant leadership inherently embodies these principles.
Imagine that your organization discovers an incident of sexual harassment. A traditional leader, concerned about backlash, might try to quietly address the issue internally, limiting the knowledge of the incident to a few.
A servant’ leader’s goal would be to uphold the organization’s integrity and safeguard the trust and safety of every member. With genuine care for their team, they would approach the situation differently. They would ensure a thorough investigation, support the victim, and take action against the perpetrator. Further, they’d be proactive in communicating with the organization about the steps taken to reinforce a safe working environment and prevent a recurrence.
By embracing the ethos of accountability and transparency in even the most sensitive matters, servant leadership not only enforces high ethical standards but also demonstrates a commitment to good governance. This approach fosters a deeper trust with employees and stakeholders, who recognize the organization’s genuine dedication to ethical conduct and safety.
13. Servant Leadership Drives Alignment with Corporate Social Responsibilities
Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSRs) define how organizations engage with society and their broader ecosystems. As usual, servant leadership provides an invaluable framework.
Imagine an organization facing a decision: embark on a lucrative project that promises immediate financial gains but might have detrimental social impacts. A leader focused on quarterly results might push forward, prioritizing short-term financial gains to meet shareholder expectations.
Contrast this with a servant leader’s approach. Recognizing the weight of their social responsibilities, they’d engage in deeper consultations with community representatives and other stakeholders. They would evaluate the long-term implications. Then they would balance their business objectives with their commitment to a healthy society.
The principles of servant leadership nudge leaders to focus on long-term success over short-term “sugar highs”. This promotes a genuine commitment to CSRs, which in turn elevates your organization’s standing with your customers, employees and community.
14. Servant Leadership Champions Sustainable Business Practices
As a leader, you have an opportunity to make decisions that influence not just the immediate future but the long-term trajectory of our planet.
Picture a scenario where your organization faces increased costs due to rising raw material prices. A traditional leader might instinctively opt for cheaper, yet environmentally harmful materials, seeing it as a straightforward cost-cutting measure. This choice might result in immediate savings, but what about the long-term environmental costs? The potential damage to the brand’s reputation? The missed opportunity to innovate and find sustainable alternatives?
Now, envision the response of a servant leader. Rather than just looking at the price tag, they’d consider the bigger picture. They might gather teams to explore eco-friendly alternatives, invest in research to innovate sustainable solutions, or even collaborate with suppliers to develop cost-effective and environmentally conscious materials. By doing so, they’re not only mitigating environmental harm but fostering a culture of innovation and forward-thinking within the organization.
When you embrace servant leadership, you’re emphasizing the long game. It’s not just about immediate profit margins but about building a business that thrives while respecting our planet’s limits.
15. Servant Leadership Increases Long-Term Business Success
As a leader, your vision must be panoramic, looking beyond the immediate horizon to the long-term success of your business.
Consider a company on the cusp of a significant change, like a merger or acquisition. A traditional leader might be fixated on the potential short-term boosts in stock price or immediate profit margins. They might rush the process, skip due diligence, or overlook the concerns of their employees in a bid to quickly capitalize on the new opportunity. While there may be an initial uptick in results, such haste often leads to overlooked inefficiencies, disgruntled employees, and unforeseen complications that can undermine long-term growth.
A servant leader would be more likely to seek feedback from all levels of the organization, ensuring that every voice, from the C-suite to the frontline employees, is heard. They’d weigh the immediate benefits against the long-term implications, considering how the change aligns with the company’s core values and mission.
This approach might take longer, but it could save time and money in the long run.
Servant leadership shifts a leader’s focus from tasks to the team itself. A servant leader is driven by empathy and humility as they seek to promote the wellbeing of their staff and other stakeholders.
Companies like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, and Nordstrom are champions of servant leadership. Their consistent growth and loyalty from both employees and customers are testaments to the effectiveness of this approach.
As organizations grapple with economic challenges, social issues, and environmental sustainability, the potential of servant leadership remains vast.
Will you join the movement?