Can you be a leader and server at the same time? This apparent paradox is raised by Robert K. Greenleaf in his approach to servant leadership.
Servant leadership deals with the behaviour of leaders, but influencing the attention they give to their followers.
The behaviour of the follower leader is characterized by a genuine interest that shows the development of the followers. For his sincere concern for the welfare of those, before welfare for himself.
The server leader accredits a solid moral behaviour, both towards the followers and towards the organization, the interest groups and society in general. The leader is, above all, a servant of all of them. It is this attitude of service that leads him to lead.
The distinctive characteristic of the servant leader is the desire to serve.
Servant leadership has been analysed to determine its characteristics. While Greenleaf describes the leader-server approach as a philosophy, it is possible to operationalize the behaviours of this type of leadership.
The conceptualization of servant leadership, by Robert Greenleaf, is due to the reading of Herman Hesse's Journey to the East. Hesse tells the story of a group of travellers and Leo, a servant who attended them. Leo served them while encouraging them. The day that Leo disappeared, disorder and disorientation settled in the group, so that they could not advance on their journey, thus ending it.
After a few years, one of the travellers discovered that Leo was, in fact, the head of the Order sponsoring the trip. Leo was, at the same time, great and noble leader and servant of the group.
The servant leader listens and understands. When faced with a difficulty, the leader reacts to listen to his followers. In this way, it is possible to know better the nature of the problem and its potential solutions.
On the other hand, leadership implies communication, and communication is effective when active listening is put into practice. It is listening to the other points of view are known.
In addition, listening is a sign of consideration and respect towards others. Strengthen followers and strengthen leadership.
Capacity and exercise to understand the point of view of other people. To put yourself in the place of the other to facilitate the understanding of what they say, think and feel others.
Empathy is complemented by active listening. It allows capturing the emotional frame of the messages that are received and, thus, to understand them better.
The server leader empathizes and accepts people, never rejects. This does not mean that inappropriate returns from others are accepted. They empathize with people and accept them, but not all their behaviours.
People grow more when they perceive acceptance. She feels more secure and confident in herself, and increases confidence in the leader. But its performance can be critically valued.
It means helping followers overcome their problems, supporting them mentally and physically, and helping them to be satisfied and committed to their work.
Servant leadership also means ensuring that people have what they need to do their job: means, knowledge and skills. And that they are in a safe and healthy working environment.
The servant leader is more aware of the immediate perception of things. Become aware of yourself and others; of your organizational and social environment. He is aware of himself, of the goals and the way to go to achieve them.
Having self-awareness, you can be aware of others, and help others to be aware of themselves, thus creating a virtuous circle.