What is servant leadership? How do you teach it? It might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually a very powerful way to lead.
Being a servant leader means putting others first, getting your hands dirty, and always thinking about what’s best for the team.
It can be a tough approach to master, but with these tips, you’ll be on your way!
Is servant leadership taught?
So the question is how do you teach servant leadership?
I had a manufacturing company and what I found is that we had people working everywhere and in numerous positions inside the warehouse.
The thing is, I didn’t want that kind of division in the company. I wanted everybody to work together toward the same goals.
For example, we received this huge order from a customer that was the largest order we had ever received.
My mind was racing with the thought of “how, in the world, can we get this out?”.
There simply weren’t enough people in our warehouse.
We decided we’d all work together on it – both office employees and warehouse or carpet and concrete contractors.
In order to accomplish this big task, I would need all hands on deck now. I couldn’t just tell people what to do.
It was time to lead as a servant.
I was the first person out there and I chose to do the hardest jobs at the warehouse, like carrying the boxes, answering phones, etc.
At that moment, what I chose to do was to get everyone the products they needed because it was the lowest job to do.
My job was to be a servant so they could be the best.
As a result, I now have people on the team who have been with me for almost 20 years.
Occasionally, we still talk about those all-hands-on-deck days and how everyone pitched in where needed to get the job done.
Why servant leadership creates a team environment
Peggy, a long-time worker, recently shared her memories of those all-hands-on-deck days and why it was so meaningful to her.
In response, she said, “those were some of the toughest days that I’ve ever worked for you, but they were also some of the best days because we were all working toward the same goal and for the same common good.”
Why being a servant leader at home is also important
In the same way at home, my wife works very hard to care for our family, and I work very hard to provide for our family.
And sometimes when she’s working extra hard or when we’re having guests, she has to do double duty to make sure everything runs smoothly.
After that and when everyone leaves, what do they leave behind… a mess.
Thus, I just jump in and start cleaning the pots and pans. Next thing you know, she is beside me and as I clean out the pans, she is there to put them in the dishwasher.
What’s really cool is that our kids were watching the two of us do this together.
They know that I’m not normally in that role.
What they saw is us working joyfully together.
Afterward, my wife pulled me off to the side and told me how much it meant to her that I did that.
It wasn’t a grand gesture, but it was a servant-leadership gesture.
The best way to demonstrate servant leadership is to roll up your sleeves, to be aware, and to do the jobs nobody wants to do.
To teach servant leadership, you have to jump in and do it first.
This is one of those lessons that’s caught not taught.
To be and teach servant leadership, you have to be a servant leader.