Developing Servant Leadership Dexterity
- Written by Maria Pressentin, PhD Alumnus
In my past decade of interactions with leaders, and in my research on the manifestation of leadership styles, I have noticed that servant leaders are not just caring, charitable, sympathetic, and empathetic, and they are not just kind people that help others, do things for you, donate money and effort, or simply delegate.
Genuine servant leaders have engaged energy driven by purpose! That purpose is determined by an objective to grow others and to increase others’ well-being. To do this, they don’t focus on occasional events of charity, empathy, and delegation, but rather on objectively driving PURPOSEFUL ACTION to achieve others’ development and well-being. Servant leadership is, therefore, a focused value-steered mindset sustained with disciplined and deliberate inner motivation, non-self-seeking, and a perpetual inner curiosity around ‘how is this action going to grow others, and how would they feel and benefit from it?’
Frequently, organizations guided by purpose become financially successful because the focus is first ‘Whom & why do we serve?’
The key lingo is to serve. The hierarchy of Whom-Why is parallelly significant in the mindset of serving. When your compelling message resonates with a critical mass of a community, they follow with action and commitment. Kindness is so important and, coupled with a purposeful pursuit and execution, it exponentially manifests into contribution and community betterment.
My coaching and consulting interventions have witnessed position- power-centric leaders transform into purposeful, influential, and respected servant-leaders as they moved from a mindset of ‘being a leader it’s just a job’ to ‘I am making a daily difference in my contribution to a better world,’ all while often remaining in the same roles and same organizations.
The difference? From the external perception: the way they carry themselves, interact with others, and know why they do what they do have massively altered how they show up, driven by a shift in their attitude towards leadership.
So what did they do differently? Three things:
1. Stopped seeing others as a threat and competitors. Instead, they accepted others and saw where they could contribute to their growth.
2. Built self-trustworthiness, so they could begin to trust others. They realized the impact they exert on others and made a conscious decision to work inwards for others.
3. Relinquished control over their fears and asked for help for self- improvement. They began listening curiously to those reporting to them, seeing them as advisors and experts, partnered and included, and invited others to decide.
Being a servant leader is not difficult, nor is it a role or a job. It is a way of life. If you choose it, just decide and begin to wear it as your new skin with micro-actions and step up towards it.
This article oiginally appeared in ISM's 2022 Annual Newsletter (Page 22).