Written by: Ilham N Musayev, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
“The Best Leaders Have A High Consideration Factor. They Really Care About Their People” - Brian Tracy, motivational public speaker and self-development author.
Before diving into details, let’s quickly explore what type of leadership is servant leadership:
As per Wikipedia – “Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader's main focus is the thriving of their company or organizations. A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership inverts the norm, which puts the customer service associates as a main priority. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. As stated by its founder, Robert K. Greenleaf, a Servant Leader should be focused on, "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?" When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they benefit as well as their employees in that their employees acquire personal growth, while the organization grows as well due to the employees growing commitment and engagement. Since this leadership style came about, a number of different organizations have adopted this style as their way of leadership.”
So, with this in mind, let’s explore what traits, skills and characters build us as a servant leader and is at all possible to become one?
1. It’s all about the mindset
One thing which is common and key for all servant leaders and actually makes true servant leaders is their ability to realize and know that leadership is about others. It’s about serving first and leading second. And it is not about telling people that you are a servant leader and they can trust and follow you. It about people seeing this leadership in your actions and attitudes about leading (mindset), and your leadership behaviors are what will make that statement come true.
So, what kind of ingredients, when they come together, build a servant leadership mindset? There might be many depending on cultural and organizational differences. And as much as they are really serving people and help them feel empowered, they are counted. Let me offer some which are very common and important ones to consider if you want to start your servant leadership journey: authenticity, empathy, honesty, caring, humility, collaboration, compassion, patience…. The list is endless, these are immediate ones to focus though.
One important thing to remember that it is not an overnight job master on all the above.
However, if you as a leader understand where you are on these and start your journey step by step, you most probably succussed sooner or later. It is a great idea too to ask people around you to give feedback. You will be amazed at how diverse feedback you receive and that would be your star moment. The tricky thing is that you may not always be getting positive and desired input. In such situations staying authentic and vulnerable about areas for improvement is a big step forward towards your servant leadership journey.
2. Another magic set is skillset
Now when we understand a little bit about the mindset, the question is that what are those skills that really trigger us to become genuine leaders – servant leaders. The same as with the mindsets we covered, there many of them around. The truth is that there are “must have’s” we need to focus on in first instance. These are: Active listening, powerful questioning, commitment to grow people, building trust and a full pack of other coaching skills. Having coaching skills and practicing them masterly is a definite state which makes servant leaders different from others.
Now let’s dive in and discover which of these skillsets are so important that they make a difference. All of them are! However, it is impossible to cover all of them in one article, but having an awareness of 3 important and key skillsets will lead you in the right direction. I personally believe the following are critical:
Active Listening – when as a leader you start listening to people intently to understand what they are saying, without interrupting them, it will become a big game-changer. It’s not about listening with your ears only, its most importantly, listening with your heart. Only then will your people notice your deep commitment and full attention you give to them; they will catch your body language and many other magic things without saying. That will become a moment when you start gradually building a trust and hence getting into your people’s trust zone. Ask yourself a question – how many people’s trust zones are you in now?
Empathy – For some people, this skill comes naturally, others must work to develop it. There are many ways on how empathy is being interpreted and related to servant leadership. The most simple and straightforward model, the way how I personally see it – is to understand the other party’s perspective on what is being said and even not being said. That means trying to get into what a person’s spirit and mind are telling. It also involves observing and absorbing all non-verbal signals that are being sent together with the words.
Based on the above-said, empathy is not just a key skillset or practice for servant leaders, it is also a huge responsibility!
Last but not least, empathy embraces genuine feelings, the emotions of other people and the ability to do that with no judgment and criticism.
Focus on People’s growth – Servant leaders believe that all people are talented, and they deserve professional growth. Servant leaders cultivate an environment where every single voice is heard and there is no such concept of introverts or extraverts or maybe pro-active people and silent runners. All team members are so empowered and inspired that they are feeling adding value to the organization and also being highly valued. Hence, the servant-leaders are deeply committed to the growth of every individual in their area. The true servant leaders understand their people’s developmental needs and give them the skills they need to do their jobs effectively.
On top of all other good things, servant leaders also strive to discover what people’s personal goals are and provide them an opportunity with assigning to the projects, giving additional responsibilities which stretch them out, but eventually helps them to grow as well.
3. Closing Word
The subject of servant leadership has been brought to the attention today with the purpose to spark a light and make many leaders to reflect on their leadership styles. The article is also aimed to prompt active servant leaders to ask themselves on how genuinely they are leading, and they are truly servant?
There are many young and middle career people these days who have a huge potential to transform into the great servant leaders. I invite them especially to reflect, brainstorm and consider this opportunity as the game changer and the magic way forward.
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Ilham N Musayev, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Ilham N Musayev, is a mentor and coach (outside of the company his works for) who helps people to unlock their potential in career and personal development. He also helps in area of personal effectiveness, setting realistic goals and becoming organized and structured. Ilham also helps to re-gain the [lost] confidence and look to issues and problems from different perspective. Another area of his support is helping to cultivate servant leadership via coaching and mentoring technics.
Overall, he is an energy sector professional with 22+ years of practical experience obtained by working in one of the leader companies in this sector. Ilham’s experience is very multilayered. He worked and gained his experience from following functions: Wells, PSCM, Operations, Global Projects by mainly providing project controls support. For the last three years he worked in Modernization and Transformation and Agile Design Teams and helped his company to transform to new ways of working. He currently is a part of Agility team and as an agile coach supports the company by implementing agile ways of working.
Ilham holds following professional certifications and accreditations: EMBA, PMP®, ICP-ATF; ICP-ACC; PSPO I ; PAL I. He also is a Professional Life Coach and ICF Professional (Member).
Ilham’s position is that staying open for support, serving people as a leader, and helping people to grow is what wins heart and minds and is the only answer to all questions.
His mission: “Aspire to inspire, before we expire”.