Servant Leadership – does it seem like a dichotomy? Well, it is not so. In this new age of Agile and Digital Transformation, this is a much sought-after trait in Leaders by their Organizations.
The goal of Servant Leadership is to Serve. It involves the leader supporting and empowering their teams and thus enabling Success. The paradigm shift in the thought process here is that – instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the team. And do remember that a Servant Leader is a Servant first, Leader next – not the other way around
In today’s Agile world of Software Delivery, the Scrum Master needs to be a Servant Leader.
So, what are the characteristics of a Servant Leader?
- Has foresight
- Doesn’t abuse authority
- Intellectual authority
- Resolves conflict
As you can see here, it is all about achieving results through people empowerment. When people realize that their Leader helps every team member build a deep sense of community and belonging in the workplace, there is a higher degree of accountability and responsibility carried out in their work.
Ultimately, a Servant Leader wants to help others thrive, and is happy to put the team’s needs before their own. They care about people and understand that the best results are produced not through top-down delegation but by building people up. People need psychological safety and autonomy to be creative and innovative.
As Patrick Lencioni describes, Humility is one of the 3 main pillars for ideal team players. Humility is “the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others”.
Behaviors of Humble Agile Servant Leaders
- Deep listening and observing
- Openness towards new ideas from team members
- Appreciating strengths and contributions of team members
- Seek contributions of team members to overcome challenges and limitations together
- Be coachable coaches – i.e. Coach others, and simultaneously be easy to be coached by others
Humility’s foe – Arrogance
In Robert Hogan’s terms, arrogance makes “the most destructive leaders” and “is the critical factor driving flawed decision-makers” who “create the slippery slope to organizational failure”.
Humility in Practice
A study on the personality of CEOs of some of the top Fortune 1000 Companies shows that what makes these companies successful as they are is the CEOs’ humility. These CEOs share two sets of qualities seemingly contradictory but always back each other up strongly:
- They are “self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy”. They are modest. And they admit mistakes.
- At the same time, behind this reserved exterior, they are “fiercely ambitious, tremendously competitive, tenacious”. They have strong self-confidence and self-esteem. And they’re willing to listen to feedback and solicit input from knowledgeable subordinates.
According to Dr. Robert Hogan (2018), these characteristics of humility create “an environment of continuous improvement”.
What are the benefits of being a humble Servant Leader?
- Increase inclusiveness – the foundation of trust
- Strengthen the bond with peers – the basis of well-being
- Deepen awareness
- Improve empathy
- Increase staff engagement
So, what do you think would be the outcomes for organizations that have practicing Servant Leaders?
Vasu heads the Engineering function for A&P. He is a Digital Transformation leader with ~20 years of IT industry experience spanning across Product Engineering, Portfolio Delivery, Large Program Management, etc. Vasu has designed and delivered Open Systems, Core Banking, Web / Mobile Applications, etc. Outside of his professional role, Vasu enjoys playing badminton and is a fitness enthusiast.