Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Serving the team

Over time I have become particularly fond of the transformational leadership style, servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1970, 1977). 

Servant leadership "begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first" and foremost (Greenleaf, 1970, p. 7). Servant leaders make a 'conscious choice' to lead as a form of service to others. For the servant leader, leadership is not about ego, power, or assets; it is all about the people whom they serve. Servant leadership is a 'helping' role. 

My mental image of this style is that leadership takes a role similar to that of the sweeper in the winter sport of curling: the athlete on the rink despatches their stone down the pitch, while the sweeper busily brushes away the ice chips and snow in front of the athlete's best cast, in order to smooth the ride of the stone. Thus the sweeper allows the athlete to do their best work by getting rid of obstacles. 

As leaders, we too can enable our team to do their best work by doing our utmost to smooth their path. Sometimes we may note where there is a problem by observation, so we can identify and remove obstacles; sometimes we may be able to remove unnecessary bureaucracy; sometimes we may bring people together to solve blockages; sometimes we need to be overt and to simply ask. Perhaps a key question we can ask our people is something along the lines of (Harvard Business Review, 2022):

"What barriers can I remove [...] to help you [to more easily] do your job?"

And we must remember: that while this is a great question to ask, we must then do our best to act upon the answer. 



Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The Servant as Leader. Center for Applied Studies.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant Leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Paulist Press

Harvard Business Review (22 March 2022). Management Tip of the Day: To Keep Your Best Employees, Ask Them These Questions [email].

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