Updated: Feb 14
by Enrico Parodi
The list of leadership styles in the business world is virtually endless; in fact, Amazon carries more than 60,000 books on “leadership”! The one fundamental principle these philosophies tend to have in common is this: leaders drive success. Of course, this begs the question: “If leaders drive success, what drives a successful leader?” For many of the world’s most successful business owners and CEOs, the answer lies in their embrace of faith and serving others. By practicing servant leadership and aligning with others who follow this principle, they lead – and drive success – through inspiration, strength, and faith-based action.
Just what are the hallmarks of servant leadership? How can you find power in the principle to enrich your business and your life? Here’s a closer look:
Defining Servant Leadership Just what IS a servant leader? A servant leader is a person in a position of influence whose leadership is empowered by helping others succeed. A servant leader is a servant first, a person who models humility, high standards, and excellence while leading by example. A servant leader is motivational by being inspirational. And finally, a servant leader tends to find internal strength through a strong faith and belief system.
Focusing on Others In his book, Beyond the Mountaintop: Observations on Selling, Living, and Achieving, Mark Thacker put it this way: “Servant-leaders are humble: they don’t think less of themselves; they just think about themselves less.” Simply put, a servant leader genuinely cares about others and puts their needs first. This mindset manifests itself in the workplace by active listening and constructive empathy. What’s more, the servant leader is a relationship builder and team builder who understands there is greater collective power when individual strengths are united for the common good. This altruistic approach extends beyond the workplace and into the customer culture as well, with team members from the top down personifying customer care. By satisfying the essential needs of customers, trust and loyalty can be won. It’s the proverbial win-win situation that manages to grow the bottom line by putting others first.
Leading by Example Servant leaders “walk the talk.” They don’t just say the right things and then do the opposite; rather, they model the beliefs, ideals, and actions they wish to see in their workplace culture. Above all, they dare to “be” the change they wish to see in the world.
Leading by Faith Where does the foundation for a servant leadership philosophy and management style come from? For many organizational leaders, it emanates from their faith. But it goes beyond merely acknowledging a strong belief system; indeed, it requires acting on those beliefs and making them part of their personal and professional interactions with others. Servant leaders earn respect by giving respect. They motivate by inspiring. They follow the example of Christ, whose act of washing the feet of his disciples in the upper room during the Last Supper is, perhaps, the most striking example of servant leadership.
Power in the Principle It might seem counterintuitive to think about “serving” and putting others first as a cornerstone of business power. Certainly, there is a misconception that servant leaders forfeit their authority and ability to lead when they put the needs and desires of others ahead of their own. This false belief stems from confusing “service ” with “servitude.” As Mark Thacker noted, “servitude implies being in a one-down position to another person and giving from a place of ‘need to’ or ‘have to.’” He goes on to explain that “true service, by contrast, stems from a desire to give from the heart.” It is “freely shared without any expectation for something in return.”
Putting Servant Leadership in Action So, what does servant leadership look like in the business world? Obviously, it can take many forms depending on the industry, on the market, and on customer and employee cultures. It can also manifest in different ways depending on whether the service relationship is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Is it a leadership style? A philosophy? A strategy, even? It can be all those things and more. It boils down to always keep your eyes open for your customer needs, regardless of your area of competence and beyond the “literal’ scope of your contract. And when servant leadership is enacted – with marketing, sales, customer service, industry relations, and more – its core collaborative principles create opportunities for lasting collaborative success. What it comes down to is this: When servant leadership is a guiding mindset day after day, decision after decision, there is power in the principle. And it’s the kind of power that can restore hope, enrich your business – and your entire life.
About the Author
Enrico Parodi is the President of SVP Sales, a firm specialized in sales strategy, sales process and sales execution powered by Sales Xceleration. Enrico has 30 years industry of sales leadership, and success in different industries. Connect with him on LinkedIn at /enricoparodi.