Leadership

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership focuses on the development and well-being of the people.

Many years ago, the company I was working with was getting ready for a transformation.  The hourly rate structure had too many classifications and a great variety of job functions. I team up with the human resources team to create the new structure.  

After a detailed analysis of every function and its responsibilities, we combined some functions and created new names for them.  The HR manager suggested changing the Supervisor’s position name to Facilitators.  I did not understand why, and 100% of my peers did not understand either.

Fast forward a couple of years, and now I am leading the lean implementation. When my lean coach brought up the concept of servant leadership was the first time I heard about it. He explained that continuous improvement is a people-centric system. My job as a is to take care of the team, not to facilitate events and teach tools. The tools are important, but it is the people who matter, he said.

Servant leadership is a different way to do things, a distinctive leadership style, or attitude.  A Servant Leader focuses on the development and well-being of the people.  The employees are first!  The leader’s job is to develop more leaders by teaching, motivating, facilitating, and supporting the team.  Below are examples of how you can be a better leader.

Servant leadership and Teaching

  • With teaching and mentoring, you get people to do things that otherwise they wouldn’t. These skills and experiences change their work and their entire life.  
  • A servant leader creates the right environment for learning and building trust.
  • It also handover the tools needed to be safe and effective.  

Motivate

  • Encourage exploring new things and testing different ways to get better results.  
  • Follow-up on suggestions and ideas. Seen your ideas implemented is a powerful motivation.

Facilitate & Support

  • Facilitate and endorse collaboration between teams by promoting participation in kaizen to solve cross-functional problems.
  • Give them information, resources, and better work environments to ensure success.
  • Provide the right continuous improvement support system. Examples of this are training schedules, suggestion programs, quality circles, daily improvements, and the right compensation systems.
  • Understand and support the team all the time, regardless they succeed or not. Show them that in continuous improvement you win, or you learn.  
  • Not everybody learns at the same pace, be patient and empathic.  Help them to achieve what they believe is not possible, and to trust their own skills.

Practicing Servant Leadership

To be a servant leader, focus on the needs of others before your own. Every day, go and see what is going on for yourself. Experience the facts firsthand and listen to their concerns and ideas. Learn about them as individuals, get to know the person behind the team member. Establish a relationship with your team and create the right environment for people to flourish. Are you ready to be a servant leader? Can you understand now why the name Facilitator was not such a bad idea? I do.

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