Transform Your Leadership: 5 Practical Steps

How Servant Leadership Boosts Performance and Engagement

As a people leader, I have heard "servant leadership" in almost every organization I have worked with. In today's fast-paced and constantly evolving business world, creating a culture of trust, engagement, and collaboration is more critical than ever.


Let's start with a definition: Servant leadership is a philosophy emphasizing serving others and empowering them to achieve their goals and potential.

It's not just a theoretical concept; it has practical applications in the workplace that can transform how you lead your team members and impact their engagement, motivation, and performance.

In this post, I'll explore how servant leadership can be practical in the modern workforce and provide specific and actionable steps to help you become a better servant leader. I will also discuss how servant leadership benefits organizations, leading to better financial performance, a more positive societal impact, and higher levels of team member engagement and purpose.

Why Servant Leadership Matters

Let's face it; leadership is challenging. You have targets to hit, stakeholders to please, and a team to manage. But authentic leadership, a requirement of those who seek to be a Proven Leader, involves putting others first and helping them achieve their full potential, and that's where servant leadership comes in.

Servant leadership is not just a "nice to have" quality in a leader; it's necessary for today's workplace. According to a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For the study, companies prioritizing servant leadership have a 5% higher team member retention rate and a 2.3% higher revenue growth rate than those that don't.

When you focus on your team members' needs, listen to them, provide growth opportunities, and acknowledge their contributions, you create a culture of engagement, trust, and collaboration. This focus, in turn, leads to better outcomes for the organization.

The Art of Practical Servant Leadership: 5 Practical Steps

Now that we've established why servant leadership matters let's discuss how to make it practical in the modern workforce. Here are five specific and actionable steps that you can take to become a better servant leader:

1. Build Trust through Active Listening.

Active listening is a crucial aspect of servant leadership, and it means taking the time to understand your team members' needs, concerns, and goals. When you actively listen to your team members, you build trust and create a culture of open communication. This, in turn, improves team member engagement and overall team performance.

To actively listen to your team members, you need to:

  • Give them your full attention: This means putting aside distractions and focusing on what they say.

  • Ask questions: Don't assume you know what they think or feel. Ask questions to understand their perspective fully.

  • Provide feedback: Let them know you appreciate their point of view and ask if there's anything you can do to help.

2. Empowering Your Team Members.

Another critical aspect of servant leadership is empowering team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work. It shows that you trust and respect their abilities, which can improve their confidence and motivation. Additionally, when team members feel empowered, they are more likely to take risks and develop innovative solutions to challenging problems.

To empower your team members, you need to:

  • Clearly define their roles and responsibilities: Make sure they know what they're responsible for and what's expected.

  • Provide guidance and support: Offer advice when needed, but don't micromanage them.

  • Celebrate their successes: When they make a good decision or devise a creative solution, recognize and celebrate their success.

3. Show Appreciation and Recognition for Your Team Members' Contributions.

One of the essential aspects of servant leadership is taking the time to acknowledge your team members' hard work and accomplishments. Employees who feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions are likelier to be engaged and committed to their work. As a servant leader, you should show your team members you value and appreciate their efforts.

This can be as simple as a public thank you or a small token of appreciation. For instance, if one of your team members goes above and beyond to deliver a project on time, take the time to recognize their contribution publicly during your next team meeting. This makes the team member feel valued and motivates others to strive for excellence.

4. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Development.

Servant leaders should also provide opportunities for growth and development, both professionally and personally. This can include mentoring, coaching, and training programs that help team members develop new skills and advance their careers. Investing in your team member's growth and development will create a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

One effective way to provide growth opportunities is to encourage team members to pursue interests outside their current job function. This helps them develop new skills and brings fresh perspectives to the team. For example, if a team member expresses interest in learning a new skill that is not directly related to their job, encourage them to pursue it. Provide resources and support to help them achieve their goal. This approach helps the team member grow and positively impacts the team's performance.

5. Lead by Example.

Finally, servant leaders should lead by example and set a positive tone for their teams. This means modeling the behaviors you want to see in your team members, such as active listening, open communication, and a willingness to learn and grow. When team members see their leaders living these values, they are more likely to adopt them.

As a leader, you should consciously model the behaviors you want to see in your team members. Actively seek feedback from your team members, communicate openly and transparently, and take ownership of your mistakes. This approach creates a culture of trust and collaboration within the team, resulting in better outcomes for the organization.

Bringing It All Together

Servant leadership is a powerful philosophy emphasizing serving others and empowering them to achieve their goals and potential. By adopting a servant leadership approach, leaders can create a positive and inclusive work environment that benefits team members and the organization.

To make servant leadership practices in the modern workforce, we should focus on actively listening to our team members, empowering them to make decisions, showing appreciation and recognition, providing opportunities for growth and development, and leading by example. By taking these actionable steps, we can create a culture of servant leadership that benefits our team members, improves team member engagement and performance, and drives better outcomes for the organization.

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