Leaders have the challenging task of aligning their team behind the strategies and objectives of the organization with an internal focus on improvement opportunities that best align with business strategy. Leaders are also human and driven to demonstrate their value to the organization so they can reap personal acclaim and increased compensation. Thus, they are consistently motivated to satisfy the needs of their boss/leader, who will determine their pay. However, when the demands of their boss/leader are extensive, this leaves less time for them to administer to the needs of their team(s). Over time, this creates distance between their motivation and the needs of the people they lead, which is especially true higher up in the organization, where Leaders are naturally more detached from their teams due to the breadth of their responsibility.
While many great Leaders will not succumb to these potentially conflicting motivations, many will drift unconsciously to aligning their priorities with items that make them look good in the eyes of their boss and insulate them from the evolving needs of their team. This creates hesitancy in going to bat for their people, where local concerns could create controversy or conflict with their boss. Thus, the natural path of least resistance is pleasing their management, competing with the needs and interests of their team. This creates frustration and detachment within the group.
How can an organization guard against this natural drift in Leadership focus?
The answer is by creating a clear and fundamental expectation for Leaders to balance business objectives to create an environment where their team can excel. This requires a servant Leader mentality. Servant Leadership is a style of Leadership that focuses on creating a fulfilling environment where those they lead can be successful.
What makes a Servant Leader?
Servant Leaders focus on relationships with individuals on their team and subordinate their personal needs to the needs of their people. As a result, they create an environment where their team(s) can be successful and steward the growth, development, and actualization of each individual they lead. This focus allows them to balance organizational strategies with local team needs effectively.
It also creates courage when a Leader faces organizational requests incongruent with local capability. For example, suppose a team requires resources outside of those budgeted to complete their commitments. In that case, a Servant Leader addresses the needs head-on and engages with broader Leaders if necessary to justify the expenses. They would not just tell their team to make due and avoid “looking bad.”
When tough decisions have to be made, Servant Leaders are motivated to meet business needs in a way that minimizes employee hardship. Servant Leaders also communicate thoughtfully with their team to engage, share decision-making where appropriate, and have everyone understand the whys of decisions. Servant Leaders invite team participation and ownership.
With their example as the primary teacher, Servant Leaders beget Servant Followers who likewise align with helping/serving co-workers. Thus, servant Leaders create high-functioning organizations where individuals feel validated, and they’re able to maximize their engagement from a position of feeling relevant and valued. Simply put, Servant Leadership creates strong followership and engaged employees. And many studies have confirmed the business value of employee engagement.
What are some steps to move forward in Leadership development?
Find an honest accountability partner willing to give you feedback on your team and a peer level. Then, take time to reflect on your behaviors each day without judgment. These small steps create awareness to make different choices in the moment.
Choose leadership development for your organization with Servant Leadership in mind from the start and consider the Humessence HUM-B-LE Leadership Development Program. If you want to integrate Servant Leadership behaviors into your subconscious effectively, a leadership coaching engagement can be an asset and strategic partnership in your development.