The Servant Leader

Basic Business Cents

Leaders of organizations can be portrayed in two ways, the commanding leader and the servant leader.

Typical organization charts show the chain of command with the leader shown at the top, followed by the direct reports, and lower down the people reporting to them. This forms a triangle. The leader at the top of the triangle can be called the commanding leader.

The commanding leader arrives at the top of the triangle through various ways. Some are often selfish, dogmatic, and arrogant as they claw the way to the top. Some are eloquent and persuasive and use their charisma and guile to win promotions. Some are short-term outcome focused to the demise of long-term objectives with their overriding attention to “the bottom line.” And always there are those who make use of “who they know”.

It is better to turn the triangle upside down and depict the servant leader supporting the organization. This can be likened to the sculpture of Atlas holding up the earth or other heavenly body. The servant leader has the organization on his/her shoulders and supporting it with all of their ability.

The servant leader understands the responsibility of supporting the organization and making it better. They make sure the employees receive proper training, tools, and material and give employees the authority to make decisions to improve their processes. They provide positive reinforcement with credit for victories shared among people. They provide clear direction and ensure all employees understand communications. The servant leader is the one who serves best, who supports the employees and helps them to perform better. They get results through others.

The world is changing. We have moved from a commanding leader over an assembly line making all the decisions and the workers leaving their brains at the door and doing what they are told. We now are more likely to see a servant leader supporting the organization, using the brainpower of all employees to optimize both short and long-term results. People today are more informed, knowledgeable and able to contribute. Give them a chance.

Servant leadership is truly a win-win for all parties in that all resources of the organization are used, results are improved, and everyone receives more satisfaction and pride in their work.