When the group bus gets stuck in the mud, a top-down leader stays at the wheel and orders the rest to get out and push. A servant-leader gets out, starts to push and lets their actions lead the team. Top-down leaders stand to the side and bark orders. Servant-leaders show the way by rolling up their sleeves, finding out what employees need to do their jobs well and working hard to provide those resources.
In the context of different organizations, top-down management can get the job done. Servant leadership, however, is a proven way to help your employees grow and stay engaged with their work. What are the key differences, and which option is better and more effective? Here are a few good reasons to adopt a servant leadership style.
As a manager, your team’s success or failure rests on your decisions and your ability to convert those decisions into action. Your teams weren’t hired simply because they can close sales and execute orders. They were hired because they have the training and experience to make smart and relevant decisions.
As a servant-leader, you’ll help your employees make empowered decisions and bring their own solutions to get the job done. Once your team knows what is expected of them, you give each employee the space and tools she needs. You hired your employees for their valuable experience and their knowledge. If you don’t encourage them to use that knowledge, you’re wasting your own money.
Who would you respect more: the leader who stayed in the bus, or the leader who got out and pushed? If you would respect the second leader more, it’s likely your employees would too. Managers who care more about the work then the title and status of leadership are often considered more committed, more sincere and more honest and trustworthy. In the rare moments when servant-leaders do need to bark orders, people are more inclined to listen.
Your elevated position allows you to see more of the larger workings and long-term plans of the company than your support staff can see. You know more than they do about long-term company goals and you know more about the company’s capabilities and strategy. You choose the course and heading, but your employees have the power to get the team there. Giving employees agency and accountability might seem like handing them a burden, but on the contrary, many people respond to greater agency with a greater sense of excitement and engagement.
If it’s time to hire a new leader to help drive your organization to continued success, turn to the recruiting experts at Executive Alliance.