For this entry in my effective leadership blog series, I’d like to discuss a concept that has been around for some time: servant leadership. While there are several ways to describe this type of leadership, the following short excerpt is very good. It was written by the founder of the servant leadership movement, Robert Greenleaf, and published in 1970.
A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid,’ servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”
I believe serve-first drives a more growth-oriented and robust culture with increased team satisfaction, better innovation, improved efficiency, and a continuous snowball of positive effects. The founders of The Home Depot helped make the inverted pyramid famous and say, “We live by the simple premise by our founders: Put customers and associates first, and the rest will take care of itself.”
A visual representation looks something like this:
If you read more about the leadership inverted pyramid, you will learn of numerous successful companies linked to it beyond Home Depot, including Nordstrom. It is called inverted not only because it is upside down but because it represents the opposite of many corporate cultures.
One of the goals of servant leadership and the inverted pyramid is to increase communication and diversity of thought amongst the members of your organization. This creates a more flexible and responsive team and fosters an environment where employees’ voices are heard. The focus is put more on workers who add value to the customer’s interaction with the business. For example, Nordstrom empowers their frontline staff to establish relationships with customers and determine ways to take care of them.
Develop a Culture of Trust
Clearly communicate the company’s mission, values, and overall vision. Being transparent and clear about everything fosters trust. Remember, trust has to be earned, but establishing this trust has a direct correlation with work performance.
What the Servant Leadership Style Means for Team Members
The graphic below describes how servant leadership affects team members. Specifically, what they can expect from me and what I expect from them:
Making Servant Leadership Happen at Your Company
I love the serve-first mentality and what it brings to a company’s culture. Servant leadership is not reserved only for those in leadership positions. Everyone can benefit from having a serve-first mindset.
A servant leadership focus is not something that can be easily initiated like a flip of a switch. To make it happen, everyone in your organization will need a mindset shift. This means changing the default hardwiring in our minds to look at something in a different way. My assumption is that for many, thinking of and adopting serve-first and the leadership inverted pyramid will require some degree of a mindset shift.
For me, energy is derived from serving. Being able to support the growth and development of others is rewarding for me. Watching members of my team implement and take action in new areas of the growth our company is pursuing is a home run in my book.
At Imperial, we empower everyone on our team to exceed the expectations of fellow team members and our customers. This approach makes Imperial best-in-class in supporting your clinical studies. Contact us to see how we can help you.
It’s possible that your company applies servant leadership principles, and you never attached that name to it. Please scroll down to the comment box and give examples of servant leadership best practices at your company.