How can you become a great leader? Or, more importantly, how can you become a servant leader? I introduced the concept of a servant leader in last week’s blog post, this week I am going to explain in more detail how you can become one.


What is a servant leader?

Becoming a servant leader does not mean becoming a servant, or just being a leader, it is a leadership style that will allow you to grow your team faster than you could ever imagine.

If you are a successful servant leader you will empower your team and create an environment where they can flourish, allowing them to perform to the best of their abilities.

Here are 12 qualities that represent a true servant leader, and how you can incorporate them into your leadership skillset:


1. Be confident, trustworthy and show up with a smile

The most important thing a servant leader does is show up, even if they are tired they show up with high energy and a positive attitude. They consistently build up trust with the people around them and in return they are trusted to lead.

The best way to achieve this is to be transparent with your team, ensure that they are always aware of what you are doing. It is important to define what value means for yourself and for your team.


2. Listen and leave out your own agenda

A servant leader is always curious and keen to listen to their team and doesn’t bring their own agenda to the table.

Listen to what your employees have to say without influencing the outcome of the conversation.


3. Coach your team to help them self solve

A servant leader should coach their team to help them solve their own problems. They train team members to self-solve to overcome the challenges they face. 

When a team member comes to you and let’s you know they are struggling with a task or they have a problem they can’t overcome you can help them to self-solve by coaching them through it. Ask them open questions: How would you normally solve this problem? Can you look at this problem in a different way?

This will encourage you to achieve a coaching mindset with your team and it’s a great way to help them learn how to solve problems by themselves in the future.


4. Always put the team first

A servant leader always puts their team and their people first.

Embracing this mindset will ensure that you always consider what is most important for the team, as a whole, and don’t focus on your individual needs.


5. Value diversity

It is important for servant leaders to value diversity, not only in the team itself, but in the skillsets of their team members.

Really understand and know that the power of what you want to achieve is in the power of your team and in the power of its diversity.

If we were all the same, firstly it would be boring, but we wouldn’t have different opinions, talents, and skills that we could bring to the team.

Diversity is something to be valued.


6. Encourage your team

When things are going well a servant leader commends their team on their great performance. They let their team know when they are doing things right and producing results.

They also recognise when their team needs a push or a little encouragement. The most important thing to remember when you let your team know they are doing a good job is to speak with authenticity.

Let them know you appreciate the fantastic work they did with sincerity. Give praise when you feel it and mean it, not just because you think you should. This is a great way to help move your team forward and for them to continue to be healthy and deliver well.


7. Help to develop other leaders

A servant leader helps to create leaders within their own team.

They give their people the space to lead and the space to think outside the box.

You can develop your leadership skills by allowing your team to learn from you to become better leaders themselves. Imagine that everyone on your team is actually a leader, they just need your time and help to achieve their best.


8. Recognise that your team can improve themselves

A servant leader is aware that their team knows how to improve themselves. They understand that each member of their team, in their hearts and minds, holds a piece of the puzzle of how to make their business a success.

They will often do a weekly retrospective that brings the team together. I recommend that on a regular basis, every week or every 2 weeks, you ask your team 3 questions:

  • What went well this week?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • How can we create an action list to improve what didn’t go well?

You are coaching and challenging your team to come up with the answers to improve your business. If you go through this process I think you’ll be surprised that you will grow your team more by what they know than you could ever know yourself.


9. Consider external factors

People are not robots. External factors concerning their team, their work-life balance and emotional issues are all of interest to a servant leader.

You should be interested, aware, listening and observant to see where you can help your team members. Allow them the time and space to deal with these concerns. If you ignore them they will only impact the health of your team, so it is extremely important to take that forward and consider a way to manage them.

This can be achieved through one-on-one discussion with the individual and by thinking about what’s best for them as a person, not for the business.


10. Focus everyone on the outcomes and deliverables of the project

A servant leader gets work done by focusing their team on the outcomes and deliverables of what they want to achieve.

They understand that people can have fun at work but that ultimately they are there to produce certain results. When a team is heading in the same direction you get collaboration and camaraderie.

This is a great way to keep your team lean, agile, and focused on the right things.


11. Let your team commit to the work

A servant leader is not a manager, a micro-manager, or a project manager, they empower their team to come up with the right estimates and level of commitment.

If their team commits, they commit.

If they learn lessons along the way, or they don’t deliver, they only have themselves to look at and themselves to improve. This is the best way to continuously improve your team. Trust that they will start somewhere, that they might not get it right the first time, but they will look for a way to continuously improve in the future.


12. Cultivate a culture of honour

The servant leader knows that their team is there to respect each other, to respect them, and to respect the processes they are taking the team through.

Whether these processes include updates, estimates, or the approach you want to take to customer relations it is important that your team understand and respect your decisions.

Honour the process, the people, and the culture you are trying to create in your teams and your start-up.


In Conclusion

Becoming a servant leader is all about being a great leader and a servant at the same time, in the sense that if a team member needs help to finish a job you will do whatever it takes to help them get over the line.

As a servant leader you are able to lead, and to switch and serve your team and your business when it counts.

Hit play to watch a video of me discussing how you can become a servant leader:

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