It doesn’t seem like servant
and leader really go together,
does it? Well, they can. And, acting as a servant leader in your small business
can completely change the way you do business.
The term servant leader was first coined in the 1970s by Robert K. Greenleaf in an essay called “The Servant as a Leader.” Instead of your team serving you, you do everything you can to support and serve your team.
When you act as a servant leader, you’re telling your team:
“I hired you to do a job, and I trust you to do that job. I’m not here to tell
you how to do it; I’m here to help you.” That fills your team with confidence
and reaffirms their strengths.
Because your team will be more confident in their abilities, they’ll be more willing to learn new skills and set loftier goals for themselves (and actually achieve them) – which leads to higher performance throughout the company.
When you strive to serve your employees, they’ll know that you care about their goals and professional growth, so they’ll feel supported. Because of that, they’ll feel more emotionally connected to the company, which means they’ll be more engaged at work.
Engaged and happy employees stick around longer. Your
employees will know that you care about them, listen to them, and respect them,
so why would they want to leave you for another company?
Being a servant leader in your small business will help you attract top talent (when it is time to hire). People want to work in places where their voices are heard and ideas are valued. When you start doing that, word will spread, so people will want to come work for you.
5 Ways to Become a Great Servant Leader
Have I convinced you that it might be time to become a
servant leader? Great! Now, how do you do that?
Build It into Your Small Business
Make servant leadership an essential part of your small business by including it in your core values. Because it’s part of your values, you can work to hire people who align with that and also strive to be servant leaders.
Talk to Your Team
Now that servant leadership is central to your business, go
out and talk to your team. Don’t just lock yourself in your office all day and
only come out for formal meetings (like all-hands meetings and performance
Instead, go out on the floor or drop by an employee’s desk.
Ask your employees how things are going and if you can do anything to help them
do their job better.
If a couple people on your team are holding a brainstorming session, pop in. Instead of telling them your ideas, listen to theirs. Then, say, “You know, that idea sounds really great. What can I do to help bring it to life?”
Your employees are in the thick of it every day. They’re talking to customers and dealing with vendors. So, find out how things are going. And, really listen to their answers. Is your cashier regularly having to deal with irate customers because they had to wait so long to checkout? It might be time to hire some more help, but you won’t know if you’re not listening to your employees.
Your employees will tell you what they need to feel successful, if you listen. But, it can take some time for them to be comfortable telling you. So, ask for their ideas and feedback now – eventually, they’ll start telling you their ideas unsolicited.
Just because you started your small business doesn’t mean you’re the smartest person in the room. You hired everyone on your team because they brought new skills and unique experiences to the table. So, look for ways that you can learn from your employees, instead of feeling like your employees need to learn from you.
Being humble also means that you should always give the
person you’re talking to 100% of your attention, even if you have 1,000 things
on your to-do list.
Stop Doing Things You’re Not Good At
We can’t all be good at everything. So, instead of
pretending like you are, delegate. If
you’re not good at a task, or if one of your employees is better at it than
you, ask them to take over. This will show your employee that you trust and
respect them and will free you up to
focus on some bigger picture thinking.