In the News: How servant leadership keeps companies together
This article originally appeared in the Worcester Business Journal on February 22nd, 2021.
Once you have employees, your business changes. Leadership isn’t defined by what you lead, but how you lead. Who do you put first at your business? Yourself? Your team? Your customers? There are no right or wrong answers, but they all form different types of leaders with different strengths. I’m a big believer in servant leadership, and it’s through the strengths of this style I’ve helped guide the company through some of our darkest days, especially for myself.
What servant leadership means
My first responsibility as a leader is to serve my employees, full stop. Let’s put the altruism aside for a moment and be clear: I do this because it works. My staff gain the skills, tools, and mindset to tackle problems, be productive, and work independently. Our relationship is smoother and doesn’t strain under tension. They are happier, and my joy comes from my amazing, skilled, and enthusiastic team.
Great leadership is great people management
Servant leadership isn’t new, being around far before 1977 when Robert K. Greenleaf coined the phrase. It’s used at some of the top-level companies around the world. Even for traditional leadership methods, everyone can learn from it, especially when it comes to managing people.
- The best leadership is taught. The best leadership is purposeful and needs to be learned, which is why I teach it.
- Your best asset is your people: grow them. More than training people on their jobs, you need to be building them up. Help them grow as people and managers in their own right.
- Setting examples for your employees. People look to their leader for guidance: this is where I think servant leadership really shines. Because I focus on serving them, they focus on serving me and each other. Everyone wins.
Servant leadership during a crisis
In 2020, my company, Vision Advertising, faced the economic hit of COVID along with my clients, while I personally struggled with thyroid cancer (still being treated). It wasn’t easy to balance the needs of my staff with the sudden medical needs of my own, but it was worth it. Because I put my team first and made sure they had the headspace and tools they needed, my business is still here as I return from medical leave.
People leave managers, not companies
That’s a message from the author Marcus Buckingham. COVID is putting an incredible strain on every company, forcing you and your staff to come together or fall apart. Even after we get past COVID, the actions you and your leadership team do right now, the calls you make for your staff, will affect who stays and who goes after. Because I’ve put my team first, they know I have their backs. It’s helped us all get through this.
Retaining talent, keeping morale up, keeping your team focused and growing: these are the strengths of servant leadership. For my team and me, servant leadership works. It’s what has kept us going during the one-two punch of COVID and cancer. It keeps us motivated and ready to tackle the next problem.
After all, this crisis isn’t over yet.
This article actually started as a blog post on this site, before being modified for the Worcester Business Journal’s Know How series. You can read it here for more helpful tips and hyperlinks!