Servant Leadership: Two Ways to Serve Your Team and Set Them up for Success

SGEi • May 1, 2020

Robert Greenleaf first coined the term and concept of servant leadership in a 1970 essay appropriately titled, “The Servant.” He defined servant leadership as the idea of putting your people first. Unfortunately, many leaders see their employees as the ones who should be serving them. When we are focused on taking care of our teams, we create a situation where they can perform at their best. When our people perform at their best, it is good for the company, customer, and brand.

Based on our work coaching leaders, teams, and organizations all over the world, we recommend two ways to be a servant leader to your team: enablement and empowerment. These two leadership skills ultimately set your team up for success, help them achieve their goals, and transform their jobs into meaningful work.

1. Enablement
“Enable” means “to inspire someone or something be or do as you would like.” If you follow our blog and video series, this may sound familiar. Enablement aligns with our definition of leadership—to inspire the hearts and minds of people to want to do what you want them to do or be who you need them to be. Performance enablement is about providing your people with the information, tools, ongoing training, and support necessary for them to perform their job.

Information
The necessary information to do the job will vary by position. However, some managers withhold information from their employees as a way to maintain control over them. This tactic is obviously a short-sighted and outdated philosophy. True leadership is giving as much information as possible so employees are fully able to perform.

Tools
Servant leaders make sure their people have the tools they need. While there are always budget considerations, if something is absolutely necessary, then you need to develop the business case or why the tools or equipment are necessary and the ROI it will provide.

Ongoing Training
Most team members, especially young ones, crave training. In many cases, people leave their current job because of a lack of engagement. eLearningindustry.com reported that 25% of employees leave their jobs because of a lack of training and development opportunities.

The 60/20/20 Model of Learning indicates that 60% of learning happens on the job, 20% of learning happens from feedback, and the other 20% of learning happens from formal training. Our role in training is never over—it is ongoing. So, make your ongoing training memorable and effective by incorporating the following in how you teach your team:
• Leverage storytelling. Share stories with your team and invite them to share their own
• Give your team time to practice the skills and competencies you need them to master
• Engage in scenario-based discussions
• Share articles, books, or ideas with members of your team

Support
Servant leaders get the best out of employees by making sure they feel safe. People need to feel we have their best interests at heart, which is often not the case. It is hard to enable someone to be their best without them feeling your support. However, they shouldn’t be reliant on you, so refrain from being out in the operation daily. Find the balance between being in your operation to support your team and working on your operation to build a better business and culture.

2. Empowerment
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “empower” as “to give power to (someone).” To give power to people, you need to provide them with control over how work gets done and allow them to make decisions. After all the work we’ve put into attracting, hiring, training, and enabling their performance, managers usually have the hardest time letting go of control.

When we empower our people, we literally give them power. When we trust them before we know we can, employees feel in control of how they perform, act, react, and interact with their team as well as customers, clients, and partners.

Empowering your team makes them feel confident and trusted. Empowering your team to make decisions without lengthy approval processes helps them develop and grow. It also allows for a much more service-oriented culture, internally to other departments and externally to customers. People can act on their feet and deliver.


When you empower your team to make decisions and have little control, you’re serving them and your customers at the same time. Empowering your people develops leadership skills and qualities, regardless of their title.

Serve your team. Give them information, tools, ongoing training, and support. Give them the power to make decisions and control over how they deliver their best work. When you serve your team with passion and purpose, they will serve your organization and, most importantly, your customers with passion and purpose, too.

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