The last blog-post explored three aspects of growing as a Servant Leader - Awareness, Persuasion and Conceptualisation. Today, we continue to discuss the final three attributes of Servant Leadership that can transform your self, team and culture, inspiring more innovative ideas.
#7 - Stewardship
When you are a leader in any organisation, it can be very easy to forget that there's a world out there. With deadlines and demands, figures to be met and new markets to be tapped, the temptation is to frame your world through one simple question - "What can I get out of this?".
Unfortunately, history is full of stories of companies who have lived out of this world-view, with disastrous results. From BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and their less-than-rapid response, to the mass deforestation of the Amazon at the hands of Brazilian and US multi-nationals, to the GFC as the result of greedy and short-sighted financial execs - we all know what bad stewardship is, and actively seek to avoid it.
But leadership is not merely about not doing something - you are defined by what you do.
Being a leader who values stewardship means that you see your organisation as a part of society, and you have a responsibility to ensure that under your leadership, your organisation makes society a better place. You recognise that your leadership at the organisation is not about building a bigger monument to yourself - but is about growing a healthy, humanising company, that seeks to benefit others.
Spears defines stewardship as, "Stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others". Once you have made this a foundational value to your organisation, your followers will flourish under the recognition that they matter to your team. As their work becomes more meaningful, their ideas will become more innovative.
#8 - People-Growers
In the early days of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided that they wanted Google to be the best place for employees to work. They also realised that this would not happen accidentally - and set out on a quest to learn from the best.
After visiting many organisations and observing their work-place practices, Google distilled their learnings and set out to make their values a reality. This goal was not set out to make Google more competitive - but simply because great leaders recognise that their followers are human beings, who deserve to be treated as best they can.
VP of People Development, Karen May, said "It’s less about the aspiration to be number one in the world, and more that we want our employees and future employees to love it here, because that’s what’s going to make us successful.”
This leads Google to having a range of perks and funds available for their employees to develop their skills, and move ahead in the organisation. Google does not view employee development as a threat - but as a core value that any healthy organisation must embody.
Servant-leaders must have this value of "People-Growing" at the foundation of their leadership beliefs. Until you can see your followers as fellow human-beings, with lives, potentials and dreams - you will not be able to inspire great creativity from them. Once this recognition is made, however, your work environment can be transformed into a lively, vibrant and exciting culture.
To become a People-Grower, consider setting aside funds for employee personal development, and encourage your employees to take these opportunities. Seek ideas from a range of employees and actualise the best ones - regardless of who they came from. If your firm goes through a difficult time and must lay some employees off - endeavour to help them find further employment.
Ask yourself - What can I do to value my followers more?
#9 Building Community
For most of human history, the local community was the shaping force that instilled values, created relationships and shaped culture. The last century has seen a massive shift, with large institutions becoming the primary shapers of society - with a lot lost in the process.
Loneliness, depression and suicide have all risen over the past forty years, whilst the quality of living in Western countries has also been on the rise. Servant-leaders recognise the value of great community, and seekto develop formative communities within the organisation they are working.
True community can be developed within any company - it just requires one person willing to make it happen. A community goes beyond simple work relationships, but includes shared dreams, a way of life, and a genuine care for the other that goes beyond contractual agreements.
Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Kanter analysed successful American businesses, and concluded that one of the defining differences in them was their commitment to six values - a common purpose, a long-term focus, emotional engagement, partnering with the public, innovation, and self-organisation. Interestingly, these are all community values, that could be true of a town, village or family unit.
Servant-Leadership is the model of leadership that will inspire the most creative ideas and innovative practices in your organisation. When lived out, Servant Leadership will increase follower engagement and belief in your organisation, reduce turn-over, and create a strong sense of community.
To live this wisdom simply requires action and commitment on your behalf. The change may be difficult and counter-intuitive, but you cannot afford not to.
What benefits of Servant Leadership have you seen in your organisational history?