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Servant Leadership at Work

Updated on June 21, 2011

Managers at the Servant Leaders Managers Camp June 2011

Servant Leadership

Last week I took a team of my Retail Managers off site to discuss change and how they can become servant leaders in their workplace. At my company we have been through evolutionary change for the past 6 years and we need to remain on course to change as we adapt our business to cater for customer needs. 6 years ago our internet sales were less than 1%, but today they are 20% which means that the traditional bricks and motar businesses need to change and adapt as customer choose different channels to interact with the brand.

This lead to several presentations on what is a servant leader and how this concept can help managers to achieve targets and results - by serving the stafff member who in turns deliver better service and sales experience to our customers.

Servant Leadership was developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1977. The key characteristics of servant leadership are:

  • Listening – good communication skills
  • Empathy – striving to understand others
  • Healing – learning to heal oneself & others
  • Awareness – self awareness
  • Persuasion – use persuasion rather than positional authority
  • Conceptualisation – see beyond the day to day
  • Foresight – ability to understand the past, the realities of today & consequences of a decision for the future
  • Stewardship – holding something in trust for another
  • Commitment to the growth of people – develop and train their staff
  • Building community – within the work group

Other key aspects of servant leadership include:

  • Place service before self-interest – more concerned about helping others than self
  • Listen first to express confidence in others – by understanding others can choose the best course for action
  • Inspire trust by being trustworthy – the require to have moral values
  • Focus on what is feasible to accomplish – concentrate on the issues that will give the best return
  • Lend a hand – be the good Samaritan
  • Provide tools – ask staff what they need to do their job better and find solutions

According to Stone et al a servant leader is focussed on the staff first and thereby the member with the organisational objectives a secondary influence.

Servant leadership comfortably fits into the vision, mission and strategic intent of my company– to serve our customers and to offer them value for money products and services. At present the managers are being transactional – just getting the job and tasks done – or wearing the badge of leadership.

What we want to achieve is them serving their staff by:

  • Ensuring that operational tasks are at a minimum, are secondary to the customer and staff and do not exceed 60 minutes per day
  • Serve their staff by coaching and training them. Finding out what their needs are and finding solutions to their problems. Helping them to achieve their sales targets and spending time with them one-on-one, especially in relation to performance and CDPs
  • Serve the members by leading by example, providing assistance to members and saving them money either today or in the future

I was really impressed with the teams input and participation during the two day camp and I am sure that we have developed some serious servant leaders for the future!




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