I believe our world could use more servant leadership. When you think about your family, your work, your community, or our world, I think a spirit of servant leadership just might be what is needed.
But, how do we practice? 10 quick ways to practice today:
It starts with reframing our definition of the word leadership. It’s been hijacked in some ways over the years. It’s gotten so big and so broad that oftentimes we can fumble our way through it and not be fully sure what leadership means.
#1: Flip the mental pyramid
The traditional model of leadership is a triangle, and the leader is at the top point—the person with the fancy title and fancy car who gets to bark out orders. Flip it. The best leaders will see themselves at the bottom of the pyramid, look at those they are fortunate to work alongside daily, and ask themselves, “How can I serve you so you can serve our mission?”
#2: Go to them
Do we go out of our way to serve others? I don’t mean serving when it’s most convenient or when someone brings a challenge to us. I mean going absolutely out of our way to proactively go to the people we are trying to serve.
Knock on someone’s door—literal or proverbial—and ask how you can serve them.
#3: Know their names
Simple premise, huge results. Knowing people’s names honors them. Care enough to know.
#4: Give them your eyes
In a distracted and cluttered world, give people your undivided attention. Show them how you value them by the focus you are willing to give. Put down your phone. Be in the moment.
#5: Assume positive intent
If we could assume that everyone is trying their best, working their hardest and that they will succeed, how might that change the nature of our relationships?
The old saying goes we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sometimes practicing servant leadership is really just being able to be available and listen to somebody who is on our path. There is profound power in listening to someone who needs to be heard.
#7: Seek to understand before being understood
We all want to be understood. Honor your people by seeking to understand them. The best servant leaders seek to understand before trying to be understood. Honor your teammates as people first, and seek to understand them before you want to be understood.
Put yourself in others’ shoes. Honor their perspectives by considering them.
#9: Commit to the growth of others
The best leaders show people with their actions that they are committed to the growth of those around them. Strengthening others ultimately strengthens your team.
#10: Have a bias toward action
I don’t mean a bias toward busy-ness. I mean a bias toward intentional, purposeful action. A servant leader can ask what the one, two or three actionable items are that he or she can tackle next.
None of us are perfect. We’re all practicing. Flipping the leadership pyramid and aspiring to be a servant leader is a great place to start.
Jason Barger is the globally celebrated author of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, ReMember, and the newly released book Thermostat Cultures, as well as a coveted keynote speaker and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.
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