Servant leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles, as it prioritizes the well-being and success of the people involved in joint activities. Teamwork, collaboration, and recognition that a leader needs other people to achieve a result are the main characteristics of servant leadership. Recognizing others’ merits and contributions and being critical of one’s leadership strategies are also essential elements of success. In this paper, four outstanding concepts of servant leadership will be presented and discussed in detail. Firstly, the reverse delegation concept will be presented and analyzed as a fundamental aspect of servant leadership. Then, the idea of leading followership will be discussed, and the mutual features of leadership and followership will be presented. After that, an overview will be given of how an unhealthy ego can interfere with team performance and reduce leader efficiency and satisfaction. Finally, it will be argued that organizational culture is the foundation of success.
During the learning process, I discovered four exciting concepts to better my skills as a servant leader. Firstly, I was impressed by the idea of the reverse delegation presented by Buchanan (2007) and the idea that people’s well-being is more important than their work. I was also impressed by the advice of Buchanan (2007) to practice volunteering to understand the essence of servant leadership. Then, I liked the idea that leaders and followers have more in common than it is widely believed. Indeed, one cannot always be a leader, and leaders often act as followers, especially when learning something new or receiving feedback. I always accepted the idea that ego is a significant obstacle in leading people, so Blanchard & Blanchard’s (2012) assumption that egoistic strategies can interfere with the manifestation of our best qualities seemed to be very reasonable and fair. Finally, it is essential to remember that leadership is not about the leader and not about followers, but about creating a shared environment, team cooperation, and organizational culture that serves its customers.
Concept 1: Reverse Delegation
According to Buchanan (2007), reverse delegation is one critical practice that the servant leader should perform. The author gives the example of a well-known entrepreneur who spent 15 years in vain before he understood the importance of asking people questions and offering support. This manager admitted that he never liked general meetings with other company employees, as he considered them insincere. However, over time, this businessman realized that he was the problem. He did not give other people the opportunity to express their opinions and ignored their ideas. Remarkably, according to Buchanan (2007), after this manager changed his tactics and asked his employees how he could help them in their work, discussions became lively and sincere. In a short time, the company increased its efficiency by 30%. The businessman noted that he called this practice “reverse delegation” when he invited his employees to delegate specific tasks and requirements.
In my opinion, this concept reveals a vital component of servant leadership that ensures the happiness and well-being of the employees who create the product. I have always intuitively understood this, and I always tried to focus on other people’s needs and demands if life allowed me to be a leader. Blanchard & Hodges (2016) note that leadership quite often manifests in personal relationships and not at work. That is because there should be a certain level of trust in the relationships to influence a person. I do not strive for leadership, but in my heart, I very often want to direct other people if I see that they are wrong about something.
My friends consider me to be a rather critical personage since I am never afraid to express my opinion if I believe some of their actions immoral or if I think they should consider the situation from another person’s perspective. Therefore, I agree with the author of the article that servant leadership does not make us worse leaders. On the contrary, it is the only type of leadership that allows leading others and influence the situation by acting out of a feeling of love. In the future, I intend to apply the concept of reverse delegation when it seems to me that the situation is at a deadlock and people have lost their motivation to take action.
Concept 2: Good Leaders are Good Followers
According to Moran (2014), leadership and followership are two sides of one aim: team success. The authors argue that good followers and good leaders have critical thinking and can defend their opinions. Good followers also accept differences and interact with different people, react neutrally to colleagues or managers’ aggression, have courage and the power of persuasion. Moran (2014) believes that good followers can be role models for good leaders since they show involvement, pay attention, and can be proactive in supporting a manager who is doing the right thing. Leaders should not always stay leaders and should accept the fact that we all play followers’ roles from time to time. The author emphasizes that most of the work is usually done by followers, and leaders who have been good followers know how to bring out the best in people. Hence, leaders should be assessed not by the results of their work but depending on the quality of the team’s relationships.
I believe that teamwork is an essential aspect of servant leadership since teamwork creates the environment for success. Toister (2020) notes that an organization’s culture and the attitude of employees towards customers depend entirely on the example set by the leaders and the vision they convey to the organization. Toister (2020) provides an example of the Rackspace organization that has successfully delivered outstanding customer service through a team spirit and shared vision.
I enjoy working in a team, and I know from personal experience how important it is to have good leadership. If the leader is too absorbed in their ego, no matter what it dictates to them – fear or a thirst for power, it is difficult for the team to support each other and generally interact since everyone is afraid to take the initiative. It leads to the fact that people lose interest in work and initial motivation and perform their duties less efficiently. On the contrary, if the manager is interested in each team member and encourages the manifestation of initiative, it is easier for employees to fulfill their duties; they work more efficiently and get more pleasure from their work. As a nice bonus, such a team will be more effective, which will be reflected in the rewards.
Concept 3: Ego is the Biggest Obstacle
According to Blanchard & Blanchard (2012), the ego, especially the leader’s ego, is one of the biggest obstacles to successful collaboration. Therefore, scholars offer the concept of ego humility and practices that can help in this. They give the solutions through an “anonymous ego session,” the determination to fulfill a mission that is higher than you and your ego, service to others, the ability to rely on others, and the recognition that goals are achieved together, through joint efforts. The authors also invite leaders to become learners and open up to feedback to eliminate their blind spots.
Everyone has problems with their ego, and I am no exception. I have to admit that when I was a little younger, it was very difficult for me to refrain from drawing attention to myself. If I had the opportunity to become a leader for others, I understood it as the need to express myself as vividly as possible in this matter. This approach did not create any particular difficulties or problems in my personal interactions, but it significantly reduced my natural tendency to be part of a team, to be a person among other people. Moreover, as a result, other group members began to behave similarly, and a rather toxic atmosphere was created.
Ironically, promoting my ego has always caused me internal resistance and dislike, but I considered it necessary, if not the most important part of the leadership process. Now that I finally understood that the essence of leadership is the success of a team, it became much easier for me to participate in the team’s life. Now I can show my natural leadership qualities, such as empathy, participation, interest in other team members’ personalities and talents, motivation to enjoy activities, and serving a common goal and other people outside the team. I am pleased to see that many authors criticize leaders who push their egos too much, and I intend to refrain from this approach in the future.
Interestingly, Buchanan (2007) and Blanchard & Blanchard (2012) suggest practices aimed at cultivating the qualities of the servant leader. Blanchard & Blanchard (2012) give an example of an “anonymous ego session” meeting. During these sessions, people could talk about the last time their ego got in the way of expressing their best self and talk about what they regret. As a result, after the sessions, many participants were able to revise their management style and introduce more servant leadership elements into it. Buchanan (2007) offered volunteer practice, as it helps to understand how pleasant it is for other people to interact with a person who has a leadership role. One CEO admitted that he was offered to coordinate a group of people as a volunteer, but since he began to command them habitually, they simply did not listen to him. For this CEO, it was a moment of truth, as he realized which leadership strategies didn’t work.
Concept 4: Importance of Culture and Environment
According to Parr (2012), culture is “a balanced mixture of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs, which together create either pleasure or pain, serious impulse or miserable stagnation” (para. 1). The author emphasizes that culture cannot be made artificially, but it can be nurtured by setting a personal example. In his opinion, components such as focus, motivation, connection, and cohesion are the main elements of a correct corporate culture. From the author’s point of view, the main ingredient is the connection between members of one organization since bureaucracy significantly limits large companies’ potential.
He also cites the example of the US Navy SEALs who feel part of a single community and are proud to be part of that community. All SEALs undergo service preparation and training, during which their leaders create a shared vision for them and clearly articulate organizational values. Parr (2012) notes that their “culture is so strong that it glues the community together and generates a sense of pride that makes them incomparable” (para. 8). Therefore, servant leaders must pay attention to creating a healthy organizational culture that can be nurtured by offering a shared vision and values.
The concepts presented are helpful for any leader who wants their team or their followers to be successful. However, in each of the cases described, the leader and the team may face particular challenges. For example, not all employees may be able to perceive servant leadership adequately. A leader may need a lot of patience to convey to people that doing services and caring for others is a sign of strength, not weakness. Some leaders may find it unusual and difficult to “step down,” see themselves as followers, and recognize the actual followers’ merits, as they make a significant contribution to joint project success. Leaders may be afraid to appear weak or lose their credibility in employees’ eyes by getting rid of the misdirection of their egos. But more likely, giving up the ego will help leaders accept and develop their natural strengths and understand that a true leader achieves results not by giving orders but by leading by example and will to win.
Thus, four concepts of servant leadership were discussed, and a comprehensive analysis was provided. According to the first concept of reverse delegation, this approach will let the leader genuinely motivate people and improve the organization’s overall effectiveness. This approach seems particularly handy, as it allows the leader to be more humane, compassionate, and caring. The second concept then implies that leaders should improve their followership qualities like critical thinking, courage to defend a personal opinion, and generosity to support other team members. The second concept also assumes that leaders should be involved and pay attention to other people. The third concept suggests that the ego usually creates obstacles in life and work and should be eliminated through the practice of humility and dedication to a greater purpose. Finally, the fourth concept implies that a good leader should create a shared vision and values for employees.
Blanchard, K., & Blanchard, S. (2012). Don’t let your ego hijack your leadership effectiveness. Fast Company. Web.
Blanchard, K., & Hodges, P. (2016). Lead like Jesus revisited: Lessons from the greatest leadership role model of all time. Thomas Nelson.
Buchanan, L. (2007). In praise of selflessness: Why the best leaders are servants. Inc. Web.
Moran, G. (2014). 5 ways being a good follower makes you a better leader. Fast Company. Web.
Parr, S. (2012). Culture eats strategy for lunch. Fast Company. Web.
Toister, J. (2020). The service culture handbook: A step-by-step guide to getting your employees obsessed with customer service. Findaway World.