Serving As A Leader
Are you a leader who serves your team members, or do your team members serve you?
“Servant-Leadership” is a timeless concept. Throughout history, we read of great leaders and their accomplishments. We see the sacrifice, dedication, and drive that they exhibited and instilled within those they were leading. Thankfully, this concept doesn’t end with our history books. Many of us have experienced this kind of leadership from others within our personal careers and education.
What is Servant Leadership?
How might we define Servant- Leadership? I believe that servant leadership is a leadership style that practices putting your team members first. The growth and individual needs of team members come before the success of your business. Servant leadership requires a mindset shift.
While many physicians don’t often consider the concept of servant-leadership, I believe that it is a leadership philosophy that can help aesthetic businesses thrive. When team members understand and trust that their leader is putting their best interests foremost, it increases loyalty, motivation, and productivity. In my experience, the practices that I work with where the leader exhibits service leadership truly excel.
I love what Harvard Business Review author Dan Cable says regarding servant leadership: “Top-down leadership is outdated and counterproductive. By focusing too much on control and end goals and not enough on their people, leaders are making it more difficult to achieve their own desired outcomes. The key, then, is to help people feel purposeful, motivated, and energized so they can bring their best selves to work.
One of the best ways is to adopt the humble mindset of a servant leader. Servant leaders view their key roles as serving employees as they explore and grow, providing tangible and emotional support as they do so. They actively seek the ideas and unique contributions of the employees that they serve. This is how servant leaders create a culture of learning and an atmosphere that encourages followers to become the very best they can.” (Harvard Business Review and Cable)
Characteristics of A Servant Leader
There are many traits that a servant leader should possess. These characteristics may come naturally to some leaders, but everyone can learn to cultivate and strengthen these qualities. Below, I am sharing a list of the most important traits a servant-leader can develop and practice.
A leader should lead with humility. Great leaders serve their team members and don’t just expect to be served by them. They lead by example, willing to do anything they ask their team to do. A humble leader promotes engagement and respect among team members for the business where they work.
A leader should practice active listening. It is impossible to be a great communicator without being an active listener. As active listeners, leaders are attentive to what their team members are saying. They are aware of both verbal and nonverbal cues. A team that listens well to each other works better together.
A leader should exhibit authentic empathy. To be an empathetic leader, try to recognize the emotions of your team members and understand their perspective. Conflict resolution becomes more manageable when handled empathetically. Empathy as a leader builds trust among your team, cultivating a culture of openness and honesty.
A leader should care about those they lead. Don’t just care about their work-life; show that you care about their personal life too. As you interact with your team members, do so as peers. A leader who acts like they are above anyone else won’t cultivate the team culture your practice needs. When you connect and value your team, they will be willing to put forth their best efforts.
A leader should be growth-minded both personally and for those they lead. A great leader never stops learning. They actively work to strengthen their skills, leadership style, and character traits. Leaders should be growth-minded for their teams as well. Encourage and even provide training that helps your team develop communication skills, further education, and advance their career. Help your team members learn how to be great leaders as well. Caring about the growth of your team will increase the loyalty and dedication they have to your practice.
A leader should motivate their team members to be their best version of themself. They should create clear expectations with team members, appreciating and rewarding members who meet goals. A motivating leader leads by example and encourages team members to participate in planning and procedural decisions. Each team member may be motivated in different ways, and a good leader understands that, adapting based upon individual needs. A motivated team works hard and passionately, desiring to do well and exceed expectations.
How To Become A Servant Leader
A servant-leadership management style takes time, energy, and intentionality to develop. You will need to commit every day to cultivate and hone your skills. It’s important to remember that servant-leadership has to be genuine. A disingenuous leader is often viewed as a hypocrite and undermined by their team.
Here are daily activity suggestions that will help you practice servant-leadership with intentionality:
- Take the time to connect with each team member. If you work with a large team, find a way to systematically (but authentically) connect with all of them over a few days.
- Make eye contact with team members while communicating.
- Help team members understand the mission and vision of your practice. Make sure they know how their responsibilities enhance and uphold those values.
- Look for ways to show your team members you trust them. One effective way to do this is by delegating tasks.
- Coach your team members, don’t control them. Your practice needs expectations, accountability, and consequences. That does not mean that you need to rule over your team. Control won’t bring out their best. Instead, mentor and coach in a firm but positive way.
Prioritizing your team over end-goals and deadlines is the ultimate way to help your business succeed. Focusing on the well-being of your team members will create a culture of loyalty and success. Cultivating servant-leader traits will not only improve your team and leadership but will grow you as a person. The added bonus is- your client experience will THRIVE on this positive team culture you’ve intentionally created!
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*Source: Harvard Business Review, and Dan Cable. How Humble Leadership Really Works. Harvard Business Review, 2018. Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2018/04/how-humble-leadership-really-works. Accessed 29 February 2021.