1. Servant leadership is not an oxymoron: Sometimes people hear the word servant and automatically think of someone who is subservient, and below in rank to the one being served. While this is true in many situations, it is not the case for servant leadership. Clara Barton, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Mahatma Ghandi, were all leaders who put others before themselves. They were Servant Leaders. They led with passion, put people first, and held people accountable. They led people to tremendous results. Servant leadership is about getting results through people. Provide direction, help people to succeed, hold them accountable, and they will react in kind. Servant leaders worry about the whole of others, and give their whole.
2. People come first. Business comes second: This is not a platitude. It’s a fact. Engage your people to improve your bottom line. Communicate transparently, listen, allow failure, and trust. Develop your people and your business will thrive. Sisodia (2018) wrote in Servant Leadership in Action that his research found that servant-led and therefore people-centered firms, outperformed traditional profit-centered firms by 14-1. Art Barter implemented servant leadership at Datron World Communications. His definition of servant leadership – caring for people. His approach in putting people first worked so well that within a few years, Datron obtained record revenues, margins, profits, and cash flow.
In today’s pandemic-stricken business environment, remote work environments create new challenges. Creatively embrace the changes. Remember, many people feel isolated and less involved when working from home. Nurture their need for social interaction and inclusion. Show that you care about them as people, not just resources. Ensure they have what they need to succeed in their jobs and flourish as people. Whatever it takes, the servant leader is there to help.
Sisodia, R. (2018). Servant Leadership In Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results. Barrett-Kohler, Oakland, CA.
3. Results. Results. Results: We all want results and positive outcomes. They can manifest themselves as profits, employee and customer satisfaction, children becoming responsible adults, or social reform. Servant leaders are adamant about obtaining results and they are adamant about obtaining those results by helping others succeed. When you provide the direction, passion, and support your people, results will follow.
4. Embrace Relationships: Many people fear relationships, especially in the workplace. Often this comes from a fear of saying something wrong or risking painful outcomes. However, the negative aspects of not having relationships, of loneliness are well documented: A lack of social connections can increase one’s mortality rate by 30%.* Loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.* Loneliness leads to higher rates of cardiovascular impairment, chronic pain, and fatigue.*
Please understand that any time you regularly see, meet, or interact with someone, you form a relationship. A shared vision, purpose, or belief creates a strong bond between people. Servant Leaders build and nurture relationships through transparency and demonstrating they genuinely care about people. Those who share those beliefs will follow. The trend towards remote work does not lessen the need for relationships, it simply changes how you build and maintain them.
*Holt-Lunstad, J., Robles, T. F., & Sbarra, D. A. (2017). Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. American Psychologist, 72(6), 517–530.
*Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. doi:10.1371/ journal.pmed.1000316
5. Self-awareness is non-negotiable: Servant leaders take the time to understand and monitor their own emotions so that so that even during stressful times they can show up in a helpful way. How do you show up to others? Do you understand the messages you send? Honesty and courage pave the way for them to get in touch with their own emotions and be at their best.
6. Over-communicating is an oxymoron: You can never over-communicate an important message. By definition, communication is transferring information to another.To be complete, it must be two-way.We all have different backgrounds and histories that create filters, which provide definition and meaning. These filters can create very different interpretations. After you send a message, then pay attention to the interpretation.This may take multiple iterations before everyone is on the same page.You can never over-communicate an important message!
7. Give up your power to become powerful: Show your people they are valued and trusted.Give them responsibility, tools, and support.Allow them to try, to fail, to learn, and then they will shine. The more your followers grow, the stronger your organization.
8. Radical listening is critical: Radical listening can be described as the act of allowing the other person to express themselves completely, without interruption and without any preconceived notion on your part – with the intent to fully absorb and process what they are saying. To help, you need to understand the need.
9. Everyone is a leader: When everyone cares about and helps others succeed, then extraordinary things happen. Whether you lead from the front, back, or middle, each team member must understand the goal, and believe that everyone’s individual success supports team success. When everyone takes the responsibility of a leader, great things happen!
10. Search for spots to light, not for the spotlight: Perhaps you can think of a special person in your life that provided guidance at a vulnerable time. It may have been a teacher, parent, coach, mentor, friend, or partner. It was someone who wanted to help you as a person. Not for their own accolades, but because you were worth it. Servant leaders don’t want or need the spotlight. Their rewards come from the success of others.
11. Lead with an inclusive heart: Being respected, valued, and welcome to contribute equates to more than just good feelings: Humans have a biologically based need to belong—to feel included, supported, and valued by others. Social exclusion can negatively impact performance; social rejection activates many of the same brain regions involved in physical pain. Inclusion feels good, maximizes contributions and supports our evolutionary need to be a valued member of a society.
12. Healing is curative: Servant leaders believe that every person has injuries and dis-ease that affect them.Family, personal relationships, isolation and many other things factor into a person’s “wholeness.” We are all on the same journey, though we are each taking different paths. There is comfort in knowing that others have the same, or similar, experiences as you. As servant leaders, we know that healing is achieved through support and partnership. As David Hume said, “It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place.”
13. Servant leadership is a way of being: Priorities are often subordinated to more pressing priorities.Wanting to serve and wanting to help others is a value. Values are steeled by conviction and demonstrated in all facets of life. A true servant leader wants to serve first, and lead second. It has to be a way of life.
13 Laws of Servant Leadership
Want to learn more about the 13 Laws? Our workshop for the laws is a wonderful way to begin to implement servant leadership into your organization. The workshop can be done in one hour sessions, all the way up to 2 full days. Click here to learn more about the program.