The last blog-post explored three aspects of growing as a Servant Leader - Listening, Empathy and Helps. Today, we continue to discuss three more attributes of Servant Leadership that can transform your team and culture, inspiring more innovative ideas.
#4 - Awareness
A servant-leader deliberately works on fostering a sense of awareness in their organisation - especially self-awareness. This is not just being aware of market trends and opportunities, but is stepping in the foot-steps of ancient wisdom - "Know Thyself"
Self-awareness is about intentionally identifying your own personal strengths and idiosyncrasies, and then making conscious life decisions in light of your self-knowledge. The journey of self-awareness can be a daunting task, as some of your less-favourable characteristics may come to light - but it is much better than living in ignorance!
A recent survey of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council revealed that 'self-awareness' is "the most important capability for leaders to develop". Until a leader can truly recognise how they are perceived by their followers, and what their individual strengths and weaknesses are, they cannot be an effective leader.
A simple exercise in becoming more self-aware can begin by keeping a journal that you enter in each day. Writing down your successes, your reflections on how you handled situations, and your failures will help you become more self-aware - and help you make better decisions in the future.
Another fun exercise, suggested by Peter Drucker, whenever you're making a key decision, write down what you believe the outcome will be in six months time. When six months come along, compare the results with what you expected, and see how accurately you perceived the situation. This can help reveal your biases in decision making, and make you a better interpreter of the work environment.
For the brave readers - grab a trusted friend and invite them to provide feedback on yourself as a leader. If you ask for their honest opinion, and guide them with a few clear questions - "What leadership strengths do I have? When have I handled leadership poorly? What change should I make to my leadership style?" - the results can be transformational.
One of the clearest differences between contemporary and Servant-Leadership is how decisions are made. The contemporary leader relies on their authority and structural power to coerce compliance, whereas the Servant Leader uses persuasion to create commonality within their team.
This attribute ties in closely with the skill of Listening, as creativity is maximised when individuals feel included, important and a sense of "buy-in" to the problem that is being faced. For this to happen, a team cannot be forced to move in one direction but must be persuaded that the direction the leader is charting is the correct one for the team.
Persuasion is much more than dumping a bunch of facts on people and hoping they will change their mind. Persuasion involves listening to their perspectives, acknowledging their input and opinion, and synthesising the ideas into a cohesive, binding future that appeals to your listeners mind and emotions.
Seth Godin recently wrote "It's much easier to persuade someone if they're already convinced, if they already know the facts. But it's impossible to change someone's mind merely by convincing them of your point."
Reflect on your interactions with your team and fellow leaders. Does it involve a lot of butting-heads and convincing? Or are you engaging in active persuasion?
The Servant-Leader has the ability to look "Dream great dreams", and look at the problems that face their organisation from a bigger view point. The traditional leader is often focused on short-term measurable goals, and spends the majority of their time involved with day-to-day realities.
To inspire creativity within an organisation, the leader must move beyond just thinking about today, and begin conceptualising about the future. (It is important to note - this does not mean day-to-day management is not important! However, when this becomes the totality of a leader's focus, creativity within their team will be minimised).
Although I disagree with many aspects of Ted Turner's leadership styles, his ability to conceptualise the possibility of CNN as a 24 hour news channel is a prime example of this attribute. In an interview, Ted described this trait, by saying, "It helps to see over the horizon. Most people can’t do it, but I think your brain is like a muscle. And just like any other muscle, you can use it and your brain will improve.”
Ted's ability to conceptualise was strengthened by reading widely (the story-telling ability is closely linked to conceptualisation), intentionally engaging his mind in everyday tasks and reflecting on what he observed. This is possible for any leader - it just requires the desire to begin.
Conceptualisation is closely-tied with being a visionary leader, and is a skill that can be developed. An articulated concept can unite a team, and inspire them towards creative futures beyond what is thought possible.
Which of these attributes do you need to work on?