The Seven Habits of Servant
by Dr. Kimberly S. Young
Through Servant Leadership, executives can build a strong sense of cohesion
among their workforce enabling employees to feel a shared sense of purpose
and loyalty for the organization. Servant-Leadership is a practical philosophy
that supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of
expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leaders encourage
collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and
empowerment. In a turbulent economy, organizations need to do more than just
retain good workers but they need to develop good workers. Servant-leaders
are effective in achieving this goal because the needs of followers are so
looked after that they can reach their full potential, hence perform at their
best. In this way, practicing Servant Leadership is not necessarily an individual's
position in the firm but a state of mind. It is a daily behavior that is modeled
and reinforced through every interaction. It is a philosophy that guides how
the workforce will respond to praise and conflict, thereby creating an atmosphere
that increases the sense of loyalty and motivation felt among followers that
can transcend every facet of the organization.
The Seven Habits of Servant Leadership
To create a servant workforce, you must put into practice seven guiding
principles or 'habits' that encourages sensitivity, integrity, and a sense
of community within your organization.
- Be an Active Listener - In the words of Steven Covey, "you must
first seek to understand, then to be understood." Problems, whether they
are coworker disputes or handling a large spurt of production delays or downsizing
your workforce, all require a degree of listening first to what employees
need to understand how to effectively deal with and solve the underlying
problem. Traditionally, leaders have been valued for their communication
skills and decision-making abilities. Servant-leaders must reinforce these
important skills by making a deep commitment to actively listening to others.
Servant-leaders seek to identify and clarify the will of a group. They seek
to listen receptively to what is being and said (and not said) among others.
By listening with intent, followers feel understood and valued, even under
pressure, the servant leader demonstrates a sense of empathy and compassion
by taking the time to understand what one's body, spirit, and mind are communicating.
- Be Empathic - Do people believe that you will understand what
is happening in their lives and how it affects them? Servant leaders can
"walk in others' shoes" and recognize the unique value of each employee.
They understand and empathize with others' circumstances and problems. Leaders
who are empathetic have earned confidence from others by understanding whatever
situation is being faced. This characteristic is a skill that comes more
naturally to some than others, but it is pertinent for all who aspire to
be a servant leader.
- Establish Trust - Establishing trust is an essential part of
being a servant leader. Leaders who display sincerity, integrity, and candor
in all their actions will inspire trust from followers. In the age of corporate
scandals, a CEO's integrity has been tainted and employees feel less inclined
to instinctively trust their leaders, making honesty an even more crucial
part of a leader's character. For the servant leader, honesty is vital and
the ability to establish trust with others fosters a greater sense of openness
and truthfulness with followers so that they feel a higher sense of commitment
and purpose to the organization they serve.
- Be Aware - Having the ability to look within strengthens the
servant-leader. Making a commitment to foster awareness to oneself can enable
the servant leader to react with greater sensitivity towards others and
through one's own unique journey, leaders can be of greater service to others
by helping them grow and seek greater self-awareness among themselves. Self-awareness
also inspires a sense of authenticity in one's interactions with others,
enabling them to feel the leader is sincere and has their best interests
at heart. In this way, servant leaders can develop employee loyalty to the
firm by focusing on followers' individual needs for achievement and growth
and demonstrating an acceptance of their individual differences.
- Be Authentic - Being authentic isn't always easy in the midst
of office politics and role barriers. The need to get ahead may slant our
presentation to others - we feel inhibited to say what is on our mind, and
we may compromise our true feelings, stunting ourselves from truly being
authentic. Yet, building on the foundations of good leadership, servant leaders
have the inner strength to share and convey what is truly in their hearts
to create an authentic presence in their interactions with others, fostering
greater employee allegiance to the organization.
- Be Persuasive - Servant-leaders rely on persuasion, rather than
positional authority in making decisions. Servant-leaders seek to convince
others, rather than coerce compliance. This particular habit offers one
of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model
and that of servant-leadership. The servant-leader is effective at building
consensus within groups and demonstrates a greater trust among those who
work for them.
- Be Community-Minded - Servant-leaders commit to the growth of
the people working around them and believe that people have an intrinsic
value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As such, servant-leaders
are deeply committed to a personal, professional, and spiritual growth of
each and every individual within the organization. Servant-leaders seek to
identify a means for building community among those who work around them.
Having shared values and a shared sense of purpose creates a breeding ground
for employees to support one another and fosters a greater sense of identity
within the firm.
Putting the Habits into Practice
Servant Leadership is characterized by a belief that leadership development
is an ongoing, life-long learning process and making the commitment to continual
development of these characteristics enables a good leader to transform into
a servant leader. Some characteristics come more naturally to some people
than to others. Some people feel the natural desire to serve others or feel
a calling to do so, while others, who aspire to being servant leaders, must
work more diligently at cultivating this desire.
Servant leaders devote themselves to serving the needs of organization members
and focus on meeting the needs of those they lead. By developing employees
to bring out the best in them and coaching others to encourage their self-expression,
servant leaders strive to facilitate personal growth in all who work with
them. For any effective leader, he or she must listen and possess the ability
to persuade, conceptualize, grow, and build a strong sense of community, but
for the servant leader, these are necessary traits to cultivate, develop,
and demonstrate in one's daily interactions with others. However, it is easy
to lose sight of these ideals, especially in an age where profits outweigh
people, but servant leaders are able to take a step back, reflect, and put
into daily practice these qualities to overcome such hardships and obstacles.
Dr. Kimberly Young is an Associate Professor of Management Sciences at the
School of Business at St. Bonaventure University and teaches Leadership and
Organizational Behavior for their MBA program. She is a licensed psychologist
and consultant, working with numerous organizations on how to develop employee
motivation from a servant leader perspective. A noted authority on online
use and its potential for addiction, she has authored over 20 articles on
Internet behavior including two books, Caught in the Net, and Tangled
in the Web. Dr. Young can be reached on the web at www.netaddiction.com
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