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Servant Leadership - a question of balance

By Angie Main 24/7/2017

‘The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality, the last to say thanks and in between the leader must become the servant'

Max Dupree sums up the essence of Servant Leadership beautifully describing with economy a crisp start, end, and mid point.  The journey to becoming more about the we than the me is not quite as effortless.

Servant Leadership is very much about achieving balance, whilst people love the notion of being served they seek and respect authority. The move to becoming the type of leader that can balance defining and holding the vision with delivering it might be best achieved in stages.

For those new to Servant Leadership the main emphasis is:

  • Increased service to others
  • Holistic (whole system) approach to work
  • Building a sense of community
  • Wider sharing of power in decision making, increasing levels of inclusion & democracy

 

The focus of leadership needs to be shifted from process and outcome to generating results in a sustainable manner.

The new challenge for Servant Leaders is three fold:

 

  1. How to develop workers and unleash their creative potential
  2. How to create a positive workplace that will attract and retain knowledgeable workers
  3. How to reinforce innovation and risk taking  in order to adapt to an uncertain future

 

Put simply new types of leaders are needed to create new futures, that path isn’t always a smooth or easy one.

In gaining a servant you will lose a leader and that change can create instability.

Why? Because whilst people love to feel empowered and the idea of high autonomy yet we know leaderless groups don’t work, a leader can be viewed as weak when a traditional style is not felt to be sufficiently present.

It’s naïve to think that organisations can simply turn existing command and control models and the behaviour and cultures aligned to traditional ways of working on their head.

I heard Ed Norman talk recently about his love: hate relationship with Servant Leadership. Ed has operated in the field of executive development for close to 30 years, Ed is a dude.

Adopting Servant Leadership in anything other than localised pockets requires us to challenge mental models and organisational constraints. One such model being the manner in which power is distributed. Ed says that toppling the top down power and control pyramid need not be the only way to make progress, Servant Leadership might succeed and start to take hold when tackled in increments (evolution) rather than a full on revolution.

A practical step forward might be achieved by merging existing, traditional models with a new, more democratic model shifting from managing for results to designing environments that create results. Ed emphasises the need for leaders to get really good at balancing vision with execution by focusing on ethics, wellbeing and community, aspects of Servant Leadership that once they take hold will create momentum for the pyramid to topple.

Regardless of the benefits it offers Servant Leadership is not a soft option. It requires a great deal of courage, honesty and determination. It’s hard to challenge the status quo and give up perceived authority.

Servant Leadership really does makes sense, it’s a sustainable and powerful form of leadership.

 

For more information on Servant Leadership and to access to my short vital sign assessment go to www.bellebeck.co.uk

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