Leveraging Servant Leadership to Leave a Legacy

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Leverage Servant Leadership. 8 steps to implement a model to motivate, influence and transform. Delivering Happiness


Servant leadership is an effective means to motivate, influence and transform. The servant leader's emphasis on other's well-being bolsters success rates for not only imparting organizational change, but making lasting changes to employee growth both professionally and personally. So why does the concept of servant leadership befuddle many?


It provokes a stigma that to 'serve' is a lowly duty best reserved for fast food outlets and retail employees, which is untrue.


"To lead people, walk behind them." Lao Tzu


The decision to serve a person below you in the chain of command has the capacity to transform not only the one being served, but the entire organization.


Change, especially culture change, does not occur immediately, but it's astonishing how an entire organization begins to shift when the ones at the top of the pyramid start serving others. While the idea of serving by leading has ancient roots, Robert Greenleaf launched the modern servant leadership movement in 1970. A seasoned executive, he worked at AT&T for nearly four decades when it was one of the biggest businesses in the world. Greenleaf "gets" business, and he "gets" leadership.


"Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth." S Chisholm


He noticed leaders with a self-serving interest [fame, money, power] and he also noticed leaders who's top priority was to help peers and serve customers. His research found those who were in it for others were the most effective.


And so the servant leader concept was born.


One of the most prevalent models for leading change are John Kotter's 8 Steps. To mark its 20th anniversary, an enhanced 8-step model for accelerating change today's fast-paced world was launched. Kotter’s steps, combined with the servant leadership style, is a near-guaranteed approach to inspire the workforce to embrace change, which we know is happening faster, and is more complex and far-reaching than ever.

  1. Create a sense of urgency - They visibly and consistently make verbal statements, backed up through actions. This facilitates understanding of the importance and benefits of the change, and motivates people to push through complacency and overcome fear.
  2. Build a guiding coalition - A servant leader has the humility to accept that one leader alone cannot make change by himself, regardless of power or influence. This makes working with others and building the coalition a painless process.
  3. Form strategic vision and initiatives - Vision and strategy are the cornerstone of any leadership style. You'll often find servant leaders getting to know their employees or understanding them better. This gives them a better grip on where the company is and how best to motivate followers.
  4. Enlist a volunteer army - Greenleaf's research spoke to the effectiveness of servant leaders to engage, influence and empower. Widespread change only occurs when significant numbers of engaged employees congregate under a shared goal and push collective discretionary effort in the same direction.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers - The servant leader is not soft. Tough conversations happen. Serving a person comes with their best interests in mind, and that often means pointing out areas of much needed improvement. People are more receptive to feedback when it comes from a trusted, credible leader who's calling card is their #1 priority: the well-being of followers.
  6. Generate short-term wins -Giving praise, reflecting where the organization has come from, and is moving to, demonstrates the humility that characterizes a servant leader and can drum up motivation like nothing else. It's nice to remember what we're all pulling for once in a while.
  7. Sustain acceleration - Yay, we've changed! Now what? Change is like riding a bike. Stop and you'll lose your balance. Servant leaders keep moving forward to maintain speed by modeling the desired behavior they want followers to exhibit. This enables future subsequent changes to be perceived positively.
  8. Institute change - Success must be inextricably linked to the new behaviors to ensure repetition. The servant leader defines, communicates and promotes these links by their actions, reinforcing the message through the celebration of small wins, and leveraging the combined power of the guiding coalition and volunteer army. When they lead, others will follow.

Improving your organizational culture helps colleagues increase their productivity and morale, which in turn enables the organization to better serve its customers.


To continuously evolve, stay ahead of shifting trends and defend against competitor tactics, you need to keep investing in your culture. It is this unwavering dedication to organizational health that enables businesses to respond, adapt and change with minimal disruption.


As a servant leader, you can change the world. Not the entire world, but the patch where you live, work, and interact with others. Choose the type of leader you want to be. Make the limited time we have on this Earth better through your character and your leadership.


Are you ready to lead your team to culture change? 


About the Author

Friska Wirya

Friska Wirya is a Change Management Expert, Leadership and Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska. She has led change programs impacting up to +23,000 people across the seven continents for WorleyParsons, one of the largest engineering companies in the world. She has worked in top tier global companies in mining, engineering, and technology, and built the change management practice at Fujitsu Australia. A lifelong learner and self-confessed geek, her effectiveness at managing the people-side of change has proven to be a compelling productivity-boosting strategy. www.freshbyfriska.com


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