In the past, the common portrait of leadership showed a leader as mechanical and structured, maybe even cold. Leadership was about hierarchies, command and control.
Modern leadership evolved our thinking to include a more progressive and compassionate understanding of how interpersonal relationships affect productivity. Employees are not thought of as simple human resources to whom orders should be provided. They are our colleagues, collaborators and partners. We recognize progress is achieved with employees.
Modern leadership paradigms now include servant leadership. This is focused on the need to build and develop your employees as your first priority. The premise is that helping others succeed is a goal. When you work hard to maximize the growth of your employees, your team becomes more successful, and so does its leader.
Servant leadership has several components. The first is a strong commitment to the growth of the people around you. You must develop others through a belief that people have value beyond their contributions as employees. That should be the motivation to support your employees' professional and personal growth.
Helping others requires your own self-awareness: understanding your strengths, weaknesses and personality. Self-awareness makes the other positive behaviors possible. Begin building self-awareness by reflecting on your work and your work relationships. Supplement your reflection with feedback from a coach or mentor.
A successful leader must be a strong communicator, which includes strong listening skills. Most make the mistake of speaking more than listening. The servant leader knows that he or she will improve the outcome of any conversation by listening more than speaking. Only through listening can a leader hear employees, see their body language and make a stronger connection.
Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotion in others. This allows us to feel some amount of compassion, caring, or concern in response. Being able to empathize with someone is partially driven by your personality, but it is also recognized as a skill that can be built through increased self-awareness. Real rapport only begins when employees feel you are emotionally engaged.
A servant leader must also facilitate healing in the face of conflict. Great teams have the ability to heal wounds by laughing at themselves and making apologies when needed. When a leader model selfless behaviors, makes positive communication and admits to what went wrong, conflict can be a positive event that actually makes the team better.
Servant leadership is practical. Through your focus on developing others, ultimately, you're building a stronger team.