Don’t be bossy. Use empathy and humility to create harmonious and thriving working relationships and watch the results, writes Zeynep Ilgaz for Entrepreneur.
If you tend to be an authoritarian or micromanager, there’s a good chance you are not getting the most out of your employees or achieving your business potential.
But companies who embrace the servant leadership philosophy – including firms like Starbucks and Whole Foods – report a major impact on staff engagement and loyalty, as well as the knock-on effect of improved returns.
The term ‘servant leadership’ is, unfortunately, ripe for misinterpretation. Despite the implication, it’s not about being weak and subservient or giving your employees whatever they want at the expense of your business.
What it does advocate is being strong, trustworthy and engaged as a leader, while really listening to your staff, recognising and encouraging their personal and professional strengths, and giving them opportunities to help grow your company.
Word travels when employees work in this kind of positive environment, helping to create a great reputation for your brand.
So, how can you begin to employ this increasingly popular strategy?
1) Be present and observe
Your employees expect you to be at the helm at major meetings and reviews of performance, but being a “servant” leader means taking time to fully engage in everyday situations. Ilgaz, for example, likes to sit in on her team’s brainstorming sessions.
She says: “I make sure employees know I’m not there to drive the conversation. I tell them I’m there to listen with an open mind and provide input only when absolutely necessary.
“If they have any questions about how their ideas fit into the company’s big-picture goals, I’m happy to chime in and let them know. Otherwise, I’m a passive observer.”
2) Empower, then retreat
Your employees need your guidance and support but there’s a lot of decision-making they can take charge of. When you hit a problem situation your instinct probably tells you that micromanaging is the only sure way to get things back on track quickly.
Practising humility and accepting that you’re not a specialist in everything is a key step. Empower your expert team. Offer advice and feedback, but let them deal with it. If they make mistakes, they will learn and grow from them – and the company will probably benefit in the long-term.
3) Share your attention
It’s easy to concentrate your input on employees who are new or struggling. After all, they need your intervention most, don’t they? But the wise servant leader acknowledges that all team members will be more satisfied and productive if they feel individually listened to, guided and mentored on a personal and professional level.
“Commit to providing tools, resources and guidance that betters everyone’s skills, because everyone can stand to improve,” writes Ilgaz.
Harnessing the techniques of servant leadership will help you create a climate of empathy and an enthusiastic team who are loyal and fulfilled.