There are many ways of being a leader. One is command and control – all is dictated from the top. Another is Servant Leadership. This is the idea proposed in the 1970’s by Robert Greenleaf that the best leaders are those who serve the interests of their people and their communities, who may share power but who are not driven by the accumulation of power. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is a good example of a servant leader, her role being to serve the people. The Dalai Lama is possibly the supreme example of leading to serve.
Research in the field of neuroscience suggests that where leaders focus on asserting their authority and their place in the hierarchy, there is a negative effect on problem solving capabilities. And where everyone knows their place and importantly, their value in a team, performance improves.
Steve Jobs is famously remembered for his quote on hiring good people and then letting them tell the leader what to do. With this in mind, the role of the leader is essentially to
Set direction – based on vision as to the future of the organisation and hence the team
Build community – ensure good relations outside of the team
Build the team – recruit, develop, engage and and motivate.
In particular within Servant Leadership the leader’s role is empowerment of the team; to have recruited a team in which the members jointly have more skills and knowledge than the leader. It is the role of the leader to develop the team and deliver the requirements in the most effective way. A good way to do this is to deploy these key skills when leading your team:
Awareness, Empathy, Persuasion, Listening
Awareness: Knowing the team members; their strengths, weaknesses, learning needs, individual communication skills.
Empathy: Looking for, listening to and acknowledging things which are preventing the team and its members from succeeding. And finding ways of working together to fix them.
Persuasion: It is the responsibility of the leader to deliver what is required. And so the team members must also want to deliver too, so they need to be engaged and on-side, knowing their purpose and value to the outcomes.
Listening: The collective ideas of the team are likely to be better than just yours – but listen with your eyes, listen for voice tone and emotions as well as content.
There are times when command and control are essential, such as in an emergency. However, in these circumstances, having built up the trust in the team and knowing the individuals through leading with humility will help ensure success.
Being humble enough to know that you don’t know everything, and that the only way to do things may not be your way is a good start – enabling others, rather, is the key to your success as a Servant Leader
“A leader is best when people barely knows he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled they will say ‘we did it ourselves’”