We See Servant Leadership Design Differently.
For over 50 years, servant leadership has been the best kept secret in management.
We think it’s time to let you in on that secret.
A few years ago, we found our calling when we discovered servant leadership. A leadership philosophy that seemed to bring together the many different beliefs that we've gathered over the last 20 years in the leadership field. We believe that there are three very distinct circles of influence when it comes to designing our definition of servant leadership.
In his essay “The Servant as a Leader”, Robert Greenleaf states that true servant leaders need to be servants first and foremost- something that we wholeheartedly agree with. However, there’s more to it than that. Not only do leaders need to possess a desire to lead, that goes above and beyond just wanting personal power and gain, but they also need a high level of self-awareness. That means that they feel comfortable taking charge and don’t have to put on a mask to do so- they can bring their true self to the task, along with all the skills and experience that comes with it.
The most important thing that you need in your toolbox as a servant leader is a clear sense of who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Having a sense of purpose gives leaders the kind of clarity of self that enables them to take charge of themselves, so that they can lead others more effectively.
Your calling in life comes about from the meeting of three factors: a desire to make a difference in the world, being good at something, and feeling appreciated for your efforts. We believe that your calling isn’t something “revealed” to you by the world, but rather something that you discover for yourself. It’s carved out of your experiences, and born from your ability to shut out the noise around you and listen to your instincts.
Fighting for your calling can at times be ugly- it can force you to understand truths about yourself that you may not like, and it can ruffle feathers of others and make you work against the grain. But through finding and understanding your calling, you can also grow to understand your true authentic self, becoming more open and willing to be vulnerable to others. This the true power of a servant leader.
Awareness, especially self-awareness is of critical importance for servant leaders, allowing them to better understand and accept their strengths and vulnerabilities so that they may be able to move beyond the focus on themselves.
Self-awareness is critical to servant leaders because when we have a greater understanding of ourselves, we are able to experience ourselves as unique and seperate individuals.We are then empowered to make changes and to build on our areas of strength as well as identify areas where we would like to make improvements.Self-awareness is being conscious of what you're good at as a servant leader, while acknowledging what you still have yet to learn. This includes admitting when you don't have the answer and owning up to mistakes.
In our highly competitive culture, this can seem counterintuitive. In fact, many of us lead with the belief that we must appear as though we know everything all the time or else people will question our abilities, and then perhaps judge us. If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that really the opposite is true. Because whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them. So rather than conceal them, the person who tries to hide weaknesses actually highlights them, creating the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness.
Servant leader priciples are hard-wired, non-negotiable truths that serve as the foundation of our approach here at Servant Leadership Centre of Canada. We believe that there are 3 key principles that serve as our moral compass, when leading others. These principles, combined with our purpose as leaders, help to drive the practices that are required to serve our people.
As the Servant Leadership Centre of Canada, we believe in 3 core principles of Servant Leadership;
Growth is an ingrained belief that those who we serve deserve the best possible training and development, in order to best meet the needs of the customers and clients they serve. Over and above a servant leader's desire to increase the skills and abilities of their people, we also strive to grow and develop their people beyond the workplace. That allows them to become better parents to their children, better companions to their spouses, better friends and better neighbours. All people have the ability to be someone special- it's our job as leaders to help them realize their true and full potential.
Community Building is about the belief that we are all better together. All people matter and we all belong. Inclusion isn’t just about focusing on people one or two at a time- if it’s done properly, it actually makes everyone’s lives better. It creates a culture of understanding, empathy and belonging. It makes people more open and caring. It reinforces our natural instincts to be kinder to each other.
Stewardship means shifting one’s focus from the self to the community, and making that ethic a key part of your organization. By understanding that we all have our own important part to play, we can ensure that our organizations are able to succeed and grow, and always act with integrity. Acting as an example to others is a vital part of what it means to be a servant leader. Leadership is all about being socially responsible, and looking after the people in our care.
Far too many leaders are given the philosophy of good leadership through programs and expected to go back to their places of work and implement them without being given the tools and practices to have them stick. We know that principles without practices are like a car without an engine- a statue that will take you nowhere.
The Servant Leadership Centre of Canada design separates principle from practice so that our leaders can better understand eac clearly. Each of the four practices that we have outlined within our design are actions that put impact behind intent;
Listening. If you want to serve your people, listen to what they have to say. We practice active learning, and seek to understand and learn from our subject matter experts. In our methodology, those we serve are the teachers, and we are the students.
Empathy. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can go a long way when you’re trying to help them in their job. We connect emotionally to others so that we can understand them better, and ensure they always feel confident in what they are doing. We don’t just feel for our people- we feel with them.
Healing. Servant leaders aren't just leaders- we’re superheroes! We gain an increased ability to help our people heal through making deeper connections with them. We create environments where people can feel safe to be themselves and we celebrate and promote individual differences as our competitive advantage.
Foresight. By heightening our awareness of ourselves, our people and our environment, we can see what needs to be done in advance by instinct, rather than always operating in a reactive state.
The Constant In All Three Is Intentionality.
While it isn’t identified by name in the servant leadership philosophy, we believe that the single most important driving force in leadership is the act of intentionality.
What do we mean by this? Well, intentionality is criminally underrated in the leadership community today, and we think it’s time to change that. It is intention which creates the opportunity to act with kindness, integrity, and authenticity; when we act without intentionality, we lose the ability to act as our true selves as servant leaders.
Intentionality is what connects our individual purpose to the principles and practices of servant leadership. It strengthens our commitment to lead, and holds us accountable to ourselves and our employees. This adds up to increased employee engagement, because we want to do more and lead from the front line. Whether you choose to invest yourself in those around you or not, you need to be aware that both these choices involve a level of intentionality.
A heightened level of intentionality, and with it a deeper sense of purpose, is what turns principles into practice, and leaders into servant leaders.