In a time when organizations are lucky if their employees stay longer than a year before leaving to chase a raise, it’s critically important to show people where they fit and why they matter. According to Boston Consulting Group, 28% of employees are planning to leave their organizations within the next year. To help curb turnover and retain talent, leaders need to prioritize employee engagement and show team members how essential they are to the overall success of the organization—and servant leadership may be the cure.
The theory of servant leadership was created by Robert K. Greenleaf in the 1970s to describe a leadership style that prioritizes the development, success, and empowerment of team members. As a leader, it’s important to adopt a servant-leadership mindset and prioritize your people because success is best achieved through supporting the work of high-performing teams.
Here are five things you can do to become a servant leader for your team members.
Empower & Support
To be a servant leader is to show your team members that you trust their abilities and judgment. You need to give your team the authority to make decisions within their areas of responsibility. This fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment. But you also need to show that you’re available to them by creating an environment where team members feel comfortable seeking support and sharing concerns. Foster open lines of communication to address issues promptly. You are not giving the team complete authority, but you should ensure that they have the necessary resources, tools, and training to excel in their roles.
Prioritize the Needs of Others
Servant leadership is all about ensuring the success of others and putting their needs before your self-interest. As a leader, you need to understand the unique requirements and aspirations of each team member and then tailor your leadership approach to support their individual growth and development. This can also help you to assign projects and tasks that your team members will enjoy and that allow them to grow and develop their skills.
Provide Clear Expectations & Objectives
Part of being a servant leader is bringing team members into the decision-making process and explaining why something is occurring. You need to articulate the goals and objectives of the team in a clear and concise manner as well as ensure that everyone understands the overarching mission and their role in achieving it. This will help your team understand the purpose behind the tasks and projects they are assigned. You also need to clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of each team member. This helps to avoid confusion and ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them.
Recognize & Appreciate
Celebrate your team and let them know that you appreciate their contributions and accomplishments. Acknowledge achievements and individual contributions in a timely manner. Prompt recognition not only reinforces positive behavior but also motivates team members to rise to their potential. When appropriate, you should also publicly recognize and appreciate the efforts of individuals. This can be in team meetings, emails, or other forums and will help to boost team morale. The success of one supports the success of others; by recognizing the contributions of individuals, you are helping the whole team to grow and improve.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a servant leader is to lead empathically. Show your team members that you care about them and their lives by practicing active listening during conversations. Demonstrate that you genuinely care about the well-being of your team members by paying attention to their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. You should also seek to understand the perspectives and emotions of others by putting yourself in their shoes to better comprehend their experiences and challenges. Empathic leadership walks side by side with servant leadership as you see what your team members are going through and then work to support them.
These practices collectively contribute to a servant-leadership approach, where the leader is actively involved in supporting the needs of the team, fostering a positive and collaborative environment, and leading with empathy. By being a servant leader, you prioritize the success of your team members and recognize the importance of their growth and development. It is only through the success of our individual contributors that we can all win.
To learn more about leadership development, review CMOE’s Leadership Development Workshops or contact our global headquarters for a free consultation.