Throughout my years of life, I have had the privilege, and also regretted working for, working with and knowing various leaders.
Those who I say privileged about were servant leaders. These were the leaders who had respect from both superiors and inferiors.
The idea of servant leadership is simply putting your team first above yourself.
Some examples of great leaders who were servant leaders were:
- Abraham Lincoln
- Martin Luther King Jr
- Nelson Mandela
- and Mother Teresa
And the most recognized of all… Jesus Christ.
But that doesn’t mean you have to revert to Christianity to be a servant leader. People from all tongues, religions and political views have servant leaders within their system. Even our enemies have servant leaders.
Because, servant leaders are a primary “cog” that keeps systems running efficiently.
And, if we look at the military, we can find numerous leaders who use the servant leadership approach.
In the military, leadership is a primary focus. And if you want to be the leader that is respected, you will be a servant leader.
Do keep in mind that servant leadership means focusing on the needs of other people, not their feelings. You may have to make unpopular decisions, but you do so for the good of all.
So, here are the top 12 ways to be a servant leader.
#1: Be A Servant Leader By Listening
There is a reason we have 2 ears and only 1 mouth. We need to listen more than we talk. Great leaders always make time to listen to those they are leading. Invite suggestions and feedback. When you listen, you learn.
#2: Be A Servant Leader By Looking For The Rights
We all have known “so-called” leaders who do nothing but look for what is wrong. They seldom, if ever compliment on the things their team members do right. They nag and nitpick.
Instead of having a focus on finding the wrongs, make a strong effort to look for the rights.
Whenever critiquing a person, always lead with what they are doing right before attacking something they are doing wrong.
#3: Be A Servant Leader By Seeking And Valuing Diverse Opinions
If your leadership requires you to find a bunch of people who will just agree with all your opinions, you are probably not practicing servant leadership.
Giving team members the ability to voice their opinion, even if it differs from yours, is a good sign of servitude leadership.
#4: Be A Servant Leader By Knowing When To Step Down
Servant leaders know when they have fulfilled their duties and it is time for them to allow a younger leader to have the reins.
I had to add this to this list because I know this is an issue in the Army. Leaders reach a comfort level and are not willing to step down. They have “slipped” on their leadership tasks, and continue to hinder the growth of the unit.
There is a time when it is best to step down.
#5: Be A Servant Leader By Leading From The Front
When your followers see that you are willing to do what you are asking them to do, they will gain an immense respect for you and your servant leadership abilities.
Dictator – “Dig that hole over there. I need it done by noon.”
Servant Leader – “Hey Private Jacobs, could I ask you to dig me a hole 6’ x 8’ over here. Here, let me show you how I do it.”
The servant leader grabs the shovel and works for a short time showing the Private they are not afraid to get their hands dirty.
#6: Be A Servant Leader By Holding Yourself And Others Accountable For Their Commitments
We all make mistakes, but by being held accountable, we will work to mend those mistakes and also will ensure they don’t happen again.
Hold yourself accountable first and foremost.
The servant leader is willing to admit the mistake and move past it.
Other posts you may enjoy:
- Army Leadership Principles for Officers and NCOs
- The Top 15 Army Leadership Failures Of All Time
- The Top 15 George C. Marshall Quotes & Leadership Lessons
- Top 37 George Washington Quotes & Leadership Tips
- Top 7 Military Leadership Lessons from the Vietnam War
#7: Be A Servant Leader By Practicing Empathy
If you continually put yourself “in the shoes” of the other person before you interact with them, you are being a servant leader.
#8: Be A Servant Leader By Respecting
It doesn’t matter if it is a Private, a Lieutenant or a General, the person still eats, dresses and even shits the same.
A servant leader gives respect to those under as well as over. Unless they give him/her reason to not respect them.
#9: Be A Servant Leader By Helping Outside Of Normal Duties
Major Hughes has had a long day. It is time to go home and relax, but on his way, he sees that new private has a flat tire and is trying to get it jacked up.
The servant leader stops and helps even though it is not mandatory.
#10: Be A Servant Leader By Being Aware
Awareness is a key attribute of servant leaders. You want to be aware of each team member’s work, home and emotional state of being.
You will also be completely aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.
Servant leaders are aware of their surroundings and situations at all times.
#11: Be A Servant Leader By Being Persuasive
Instead of using dictator-like methods, the servant leader persuades people. They are happy to do what the servant leader asks whereas they may hate what they have to do for the dictator.
#12: Be A Servant Leader By Caring
Last but not least, you need to know that your team members will not care unless they know how much you care.
Show them you do care about more than just the task at hand. Ask about their family and their well being. Show caring about their health and physique.
When they know you care, they will care.
Servant Leadership Quotes
I have compiled some of my favorites quotes on servant leadership…
“Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” Max DePree
“To serve the many, you first serve the few.” Ken Jennings
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell
“You can have anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
I hope this helps you move further into your leadership goals.
How do you practice servant leadership?
Just leave your comments and questions below.
Thank you and have a great day!
Former Army Major (resigned)
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