Leadership is about a lot of things, but the most effective leaders know that their job is always to serve others. It takes a special kind of person to do this because it requires a specific balance to manage other aspects of leadership while becoming a servant to those around you. When leaders focus on being a servant first, they do more than just serve their coworkers and clients, they also serve themselves.
Leadership is about being a servant first. -Allen West
Why Being A Servant Is Important
Because effective leaders are a wonderful blend of many different qualities, they are able to see that leadership is more than simply being a boss. In order to be successful, those around you need to be successful as well, and they can’t do it alone.
By serving those within and outside of the company, a leader who strives to be a servant is able to be an asset to every single person he comes across. If there were no leaders who acted as servants to those around them, businesses would have some serious productivity issues—among other things.
Most importantly, leaders who strive to be servants don’t become less effective leaders as a result. In fact, they become better ones.
Qualities Of A Servant Leader
When a leader decides to serve those around him, there are certain qualities that he exhibits. First and foremost, a leader must be humble. He doesn’t feel like he is better than everyone else and he works hard to make sure they don’t feel that way either. He is careful in his interactions with clients and customers to ensure that while his demeanor is strong, it is also modest.
Servant leaders are also selfless individuals. They don’t have an agenda and aren’t focused on advancing their own interests. They know that be having others in mind when they work, they will create a culture that promotes trust and care. Truly caring about helping the people around you reach their full potential will not just make you a better leader, it will push your career forward as well.
Also, a servant leader is personally invested and always involved. He strives to be a confidant for the people he works with and values the opinions of those around him. This special kind of leader knows that it takes the group to develop the most inspired solutions, and he knows that his support is essential for the success of those around him.
Become A Leader Who Serves
For too long we have viewed “leaders” as the most cut throat individuals who push others out to achieve their own personal ends. For too long the “leaders” have been considered the ones who do whatever it takes to get the sale or close the deal without any thought for the effect of these decisions on others.
No more. Now we know better. We know that leaders are only leaders because they serve and inspire those around them. Leaders who strive to be servants will be the ones with strong employees, strong businesses, and strong growth.
Ray Kroc once said, “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” This is powerful, because too many times a “leader” will expect more from the team than they themselves give. A leader has many roles to play, but what the level at which the leader sits has a great deal to do with the standards they set and expect themselves to maintain. But what does it take to be that kind of leader?
The Importance Of Self Awareness
The only thing more difficult than discovering your faults is discovering your virtues, but both are needed for a leader to be truly self aware. When you are capable of rightly pointing out what you do well and where you can improve, you will be able to start thinking about the standards you need to set for yourself.
Self awareness is a skill that not everyone possesses, so if you are able to understand yourself well, you can use that knowledge to help yourself do better as a leader. Through self awareness, standards can be properly set.
Set A Course For Success
To be the best leader that you can be requires a great deal of effort and foresight. Those who can effectively evaluate themselves and set a course for meaningful change are usually the ones who end up on top, so set yourself on course to achieve success.
Start by defining standards for yourself. Create a spreadsheet and write down all the standards you will hold yourself to. Next, specify what you will do to ensure that those standards are always met.
For example, you want to be sure that you always follow through on opportunities. Great job! Now you must identify what steps you’ll take to ensure that you do this every single time. Maybe you leave yourself a post-it note on your desk to remind yourself that you need to follow up, or you set a memo in your calendar. Maybe you make phone calls every Thursday morning. When you can stick to your own plan, others will take notice.
Be An Example Worth Following
A leader should always be an example for the people around him. When you are committed to maintaining high standards, you are giving the people who work with you a great example to follow as well as a list of standards that they should strive to achieve.
Make sure you are always meeting the high standards you’ve set for yourself, and then you can use those standards to as a guide to work with the team members you are responsible for developing.
When you set high standards for yourself, you are inadvertently setting high standards for your team members as well. Show them how it’s done, and you may become a leader worth following. High standards will be what it takes for all of us to succeed.
What do you think determines the quality of a leader? What high standards do you think are most important for a leader to maintain?
The word leader conjures visions of a single person taking the reins and leading the charge. While leaders do need to step up and tackle lots of different types of situations, the ultimate goal of a leader should always be to unlock the potential of those around them. Only with the mindset of helping others will a person in a position of power truly become a leader.
The Role Of A Leader
Leaders have many job responsibilities. Part of being an effective leader means having exceptional problem solving skills. Sometimes it means being good with people. Leaders typically need to be innovative and have the foresight to determine how their decisions will affect the business as well as the people around them. There are way too many roles to list, but ultimately, leaders are responsible for those around them.
A good leader will guide and shape, aid and push, but at the end of the day, the true goal of a leader is to unlock the potential of those around them.
The Goal Of A Leader
This goal is clear. Building a strong, highly qualified team is what will really make a business a success, but that doesn’t mean every team member who comes your way is already a shining star. If you’ve done your job during the hiring process, however, they’ve got what it takes to get there.
The next step is unlocking all that potential within. I won’t lie to you, it’s going to take a great deal of hard work. It’s going to be frustrating at times. It’s going to seem like you want them to succeed more than they do. It’s going to require you, as the leader, not just to push your employees, but also to push yourself.
When all that potential begins to shine through, you can entrust your team members with more daunting tasks and responsibilities. While this may seem like a bad idea—as if guiding those team members would take away from what you do—what’s actually happening is that you are freeing yourself up to realize your full potential. You can stand tall and tackle things you never had the time or the brain power to ever consider before.
And the cycle goes round and round. They get better, you get better, and on and on until there is more awesomeness than any business could reasonably handle.
Unlocking What Lies Within
Seeking out qualified team members and investing your time into their personal success can be tricky, but that’s why you’re in a leadership position, now isn’t it? By giving your team members to the power to think, speak, act, react, and even fail, you are helping them each to become the best version of themselves both in and out of work, and there’s no greater gift. With some serious hard work and plenty of guidance from you, the team members that you are responsible for will be able to unlock potential no one could have imagined actually existed.
What are you currently doing to unlock the potential of those around you?
Leaders are tasked with making all sorts of decisions every day from picking the entertainer at the office’s holiday party to making the final call on a problem that will have huge effects on the business’ overall success. It can be a stressful job, but it is almost definitely a rewarding one. Being a good problem solver and having the ability to make quick, sound decisions is essential for any leader, so let’s look at what steps you can take to help you make the best call every single time.
Identify The Issue
Just because there is a problem doesn’t mean that the situation is completely clear. Your first step should always be to define the issue and afford yourself some clarity. Some matters will be more urgent than others and you first must determine if immediate action is necessary. Then, you can move forward with the next steps.
Gather The Facts
In order to make a good decision, you must be properly informed, so do your research. Not all issues that arise will require you to engage in this step in such detail, but this step is still necessary, even for smaller decisions, so start gathering information so you know what you’re talking about.
This is the part where you get creative. Think about different ways you can solve the problem while considering what options are available to you, who can assist you, and most importantly, what outcome you’d like to achieve.
Write some stuff down. Make a pros and cons list. Get all your thoughts out of your head and organize them in a way that affords you more clarity. This will help you see everything before you and weigh all the key aspects of this important decision.
Make A Choice
At this point, you couldn’t be any better informed then you are now. The time has come to pick a course of action. Always remember, however, that you are making the best decision depending on the situation for your brand, your company, your customer, whatever it may be. The right call is a strategic move and it isn’t always going to make everyone ecstatic. Making everyone happy isn’t your job; your job is to make the tough call that is going to be the most beneficial for everyone involved.
As with everything else in business, following up is always a stellar plan. Also, it’s the best way to determine if your decision was, in fact, the best one possible. You may gather insight after the fact that can help you do things even better next time. Following up is a crucial step for each and every decision you make.
Good Decision Making Is Essential For Good Leadership
Making the tough calls is just part of the job, and the choices you make will affect everyone around you. These steps will help ensure that you are able to make the best call every time, and in turn, become the best leader you can possibly be.
We know from experience that adults repeat behaviors that are rewarded. It’s just that simple. A reward indicates that you’ve done something right, and that’s typically what people want to hear. There are situations where negativity can motivate change, but ultimately, positivity is what drives people, and rewards are the best way to do that. When you take a moment to think about what motivates you, you’ll better be able to serve your employees.
Stop Being So Negative
It happens every day. People in leadership roles see things that they don’t like. Productivity is down, quality is poor, and the numbers don’t add up just the way we’d like. Some immediately resort to negativity. They yell, they scold, they threaten. These tactics will likely have some short term effects. (No one wants to lose their job after all.) In the long run, however, these tactics don’t foster a culture of openness, respect, and productivity.
If you want to see consistent results, consider switching your strategy up and start focusing on rewards.
Focus On The Positive
Rewards resonate with everyone. There’s no single person who won’t benefit from a reward, and when they receive one, team members are going to go the extra mile to get that reward again. Leaders have two effective options when it comes to doling out rewards:
- The Emotional Paycheck. This tactic is often overlooked, but it is seriously important for teams. A pat on the back, recognition of a job well done, and some kind uplifting words will always make a difference. Too many workers don’t feel appreciated at their jobs. This affects not only the way they work, but also their willingness to continue to work for your company.
- The emotional paycheck works when you are very specific. Just saying “thanks” really isn’t enough. Tell your team member exactly what they did that you liked and explain to they why you liked it.
- Merit-Based Rewards. There is a reason that salespeople get commission. The extra financial compensation drives them to perform the same behavior—making sales. That’s what benefits the company, so the company rewards them for doing it. Merit based rewards can come in the form of a bonus check or a gas gift card. There are many different ways that you can show your appreciation for an employee’s great work financially.
Rewards Are A Powerful Tool
Children and animals aren’t the only ones who respond favorably to getting something they like. Adults do as well, and that is a fact that too many businesses completely overlook. Rewards are a powerful tool when it comes to influencing the people around you. If you catch your team members doing something you like, reward them for it, and you can bet that the behavior will be repeated. Getting your employees to continue to perform the way that you want and need them to is going to be an important component to your business’ success. Think about making the emotional paycheck and merit-based rewards a regular part of your regular strategy.
Opportunities pop up all the time both in your personal life and your professional one. They may be small or they may be big, but they are critical to your overall success just the same. With business opportunities in particular, the details often get overlooked and the outcome isn’t what you might want or need it to be. The key to making the most out of opportunities that come your way is to always assign ownership.
When Things Don’t Get Done
It may simple. but in fact, this is a very important lesson that although most leaders say they understand, they aren’t putting ownership into practice. Here’s why not assigning ownership is a big problem for business:
You have two team members you believe are working on a task. Each one thinks the other is responsible for completing the task. In this general scenario, nothing is getting done and the same will happen to an even larger degree when the group in questions is a longer one. This is how stellar opportunities become missed opportunities—and your business will suffer as a result.
Assigning Task Ownership
You as the leader are responsible for ensuring that opportunities don’t get missed. This doesn’t mean that you need to lead every project and work on everything yourself, it’s just the opposite in fact. It’s your job to identify the opportunities and assign ownership to each one. From there, your staff should be properly trained so the individual who is now in charge can build teams and lead others along the way to seeking the fulfillment of this opportunity.
The person who owns the opportunity doesn’t have to have the team work for them, but rather with them in a shared experience aimed at achieving a common goal. The success rate will be much higher in this kind of environment and with ownership assigned and expectations clear, the chances of the ball getting dropped are much less likely.
Setting Up For Success
What it really comes down to is setting up your business for success and having processes in place to keep everyone accountable. Without this kind of strategy being implemented on the regular, it’s all too easy for opportunities to pass you by. Don’t let that happen.
Work with other executive team members to identify team members who you can trust with owning opportunities that present themselves for your business. Talk to those team members and let them know the role they are taking on and what you expect of them while they hold that role. Give them tactics for guiding their fellow team members instead of dictating to them. Lastly, set up stage gates so the executive leadership team will continue to be aware of the actions being taken and progress for each opportunity.
Carpe diem my friends! It’s time to seize the day. When you commit to giving every opportunity an owner, you commit to reaching goals and building business through accountability and skill. Giving your team members the chance to step up and own different opportunities gives them the opportunity to shine as well.
Businesses are built on risk and innovation and gumption. Once the leaders start to hire employees to help with the growing number of tasks, sometimes they lose sight of that. Challenges will arise every single day, and the leaders of a company need to have team members they can trust to take initiative and handle any and every situation that comes their way. Because of this, initiative should always be rewarded.
Why Initiative Isn’t Always Seen As A Positive
Sometimes employees who step up are seen as handling things that aren’t their business to handle. You can’t always be sure that the employee will make the same gut call in a situation as you would and that can cause problems. There might be unforeseen consequences, and as a leader in your business, you will be the one who has to deal with said consequences.
With all this in mind, it’s not hard to see why the company higher ups are likely to punish initiative, but that’s never the best way to handle this drive in employees.
The Upside Of Initiative
So managers, supervisors, and even executive team leaders should never punish initiative because adults repeat behaviors that are rewarded, and while initiative can have some downsides, it also has several perks.
- Production. No business needs an employee who sits idle until someone tells her what to do. Team members who take initiative always keep busy, and in doing so, can come up with new ideas and processes that management had never considered. This can be an incredible asset.
- Engagement. Team members who are engaged with the happenings around the office, with clients, etc. are much more likely to be committed to going the extra mile to achieve favorable outcomes.
- Ownership. Not everything that comes across a team member’s desk is exciting for her to work on. When the time arises for initiative, that team member gets to own the project and results in a unique way. This usually results in a different kind of dedication that you would normally see in day to day tasks, and this determination will certainly have positive effects on the business.
How To Handle Initiative
It is up to the leadership team to ensure that each team member is properly trained and has the tools at her disposal to make the tough decisions should she need to do so. If any team member has received the training and is still incapable of this, that’s a completely different issue, and the management team must address it separately.
When you can trust your team members, that’s an empowering experience for you both.
Instead of punishing initiative gone wrong, redirect your employee. Start by thanking them for taking initiative and make sure they understand that you value it. Next, discuss with them what a better course of action might be and your reasoning for traversing that path.
Always remember that when a staff member takes initiative, they are doing what they think is right. As their supervisor or manager, it’s your job to mold that definition of “right” and teach them to reframe their thinking so the next time they step up to the home plate, it will be a home run.
Every business is looking for ways to save money, that’s a given. With more time and resources available, brands can make the necessary changes that will help them grow and and achieve the goals and milestones that set forth for themselves. Businesses are constantly searching for that secret ingredient, that magic tool that will make them successful. The biggest asset that a business has to propel itself forward, however, is always close by and easy to access: it’s the people who work there.
Shared Goals And Vision
Too many people go to work, do only what needs to be done, and head home the very moment the clock strikes five eager only for the moment their paycheck will arrive. This kind of arrangement doesn’t allow for the ownership and pride that comes with truly being a valued member on a team. It doesn’t endear an employee to management or vice versa.
Employees become assets when they believe in what the company is doing, when what they are doing has a direct impact on the results the company is achieving. When you take steps to involve your team members in the development of the brand’s goals and vision, it becomes their own, and they’ll work tirelessly to see it come to fruition.
Making Productivity A Priority
Results happen when goals are clear and strategies are put in place to maximize the time and effort spent. Businesses can help employees reach the peak of their productivity by giving them the tools they need. This may include things like to do lists, stage gates, and even project management software to help streamline processes and keep everyone focused. Making productivity a priority may also mean spending some time coaching team members individually to determine what practices are best for them.
When team members share the company’s vision and are making the most out of the time they spend working, the achievement of the brand’s goals isn’t too far off.
Investing In Your Assets
Every business makes investments in the hope that the return on investment will be high. Sometimes it’s project management software. Sometimes it’s a membership into an exclusive group that will make the brand stand out for potential customers. But what most businesses fail to notice is that what they should be investing in is their employees. This can take many forms:
- Vacation and time off. The culture in American business has become very “work hard, play hard”, but somehow, many people seem to forget about the play part completely. Encourage your employees to take the days they need, encourage them to go on vacation. Time away from the office is essential to good health and it also helps employees rest so they will be fresh and ready to push even harder when they return.
- Create a loving environment. Employees work harder when they feel that they are loved and valued; it’s a simple fact. Spend the time connecting with your team members individually. Take everyone out to lunch now and again. Create a culture worth contributing to.
- Ongoing education. Everything changes. As soon as you learn new tricks and processes, the industry standards will have changed once again. This is why it’s essential that you invest into your team members through ongoing education so they can continue to contribute in meaningful ways. Not only will their improved skill set help your business, but your investment will show them how much you value them and give them the encouragement they need to stay focused and work hard.
Team Members Build The Brand
In a fast-paced business world, team members are what really make a difference for brands. They are sometimes the face, sometimes the hands, but they are always the backbone. Taking care of your employees should be your number one priority as a leader in your business, and when you take care of them, they will take care of you. With the dedication and determination of all-star employees, you’ll be able to build your business in ways you hadn’t imagined possible.