More people talk about servant leadership than really understand it–or have the humility to practice it. When is the last time you acted as a servant to your team?
“I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves.” — Navy SEAL Creed
Servant leadership. That’s a concept that comes easily to a Navy SEAL, because a SEAL is trained to lead and to follow. Team leaders are strong and bold, and have the ability to make hard decisions under the most extreme conditions imaginable. But they also encourage their team members to step up, share the power, and not hesitate to take care of business without waiting for further instruction.
Servant leaders are not afraid to share the power. They want their teams to make independent decisions and keep moving forward until they feel they need assistance. As leaders, our job is to encourage and support team members in order to help them unleash their full potential. Let them do their jobs. They most likely can do it better than you. That’s why you hired them, right?
Here are four tips for becoming a better servant leader:
- Stop talking and listen. This has been said time and time again, but part of being a good communicator is being an active listener. And, a large part of being a successful servant leader is putting the needs of others first. So, listen to what your team is saying. You don’t need to be prescriptive. Just listen, and only give guidance when the time is right.
- Increase your awareness. Situational awareness is essential to making good decisions. Have a keen understanding of the current reality and communicate it to your team. In addition, it is important to have great self-awareness. This is probably the most difficult challenge for a CEO, because leaders rarely want to acknowledge their faults. By doing so, we can make adjustments and better serve our teams.
- Start conceptualizing. All too often we get so caught up in the day-to-day minutia of running the business that we lose site of our ultimate goals. This is where delegation comes in. Let your people do their jobs, so you can be freed up to focus on both short-term and long-term operating goals. Stop working so much in the business, and start working more on the business.
- Be a true steward to your team. The only way the organization will develop quickly is if the team develops even faster. Provide your team members with support and development opportunities. This takes time and often a dedicated budget, but if you encourage your team to keep learning, they will be more engaged and will provide greater value to the company, and employee retention will flourish.
Today, when you interact with your team, start by truly listening. Don’t interrupt. Just listen. Then, ask your people how you can help, and follow up on your promises quickly. If they don’t need your help, don’t force it on them. Encourage them to carry on with your full support. Step back and let them take care of business.