How can leaders practice intentional servant leadership that leads to organizational transformation and sustainability?
by Hilary Porta
May 27, 2020
Best selling author Patrick Lencioni hit the nail on the head when he said, “Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage that any organization has. It’s free and is accessible to any leader and yet it remains largely untapped.”
I can’t tell you how often I hear the words “intentionality,” “transformation,” “sustainability” and “organizational performance” slung around by C-levels and key players. Yet, they themselves aren’t practicing intentional, efficient leadership strategies to achieve those goals. (Pastor and author Bill Hybels said it first: ”You are the most difficult person you will ever lead.”)
Maybe you’ve heard of “intentional servant leadership”? Some believe it’s a new-age concept, but in reality, it’s a discipline. Critical times with massive and radical change in our nanosecond culture — like what we’re facing in the form of COVID-19 — will produce a visible ripple effect for years to come. The markets are chaotic, riddled with increased competition and relentless pressure, making leadership tough. So, I get asked all the time, “How do I ensure my organization is healthy enough to become sustainable?”
Organizations must have intentional servant leaders who are in alignment with preset values, a vision and a mission. The usual suspects (e.g., poor management, wrong people in the wrong seats, unforeseen market fluctuations, failure to plan, etc.) are always blamed for poor performance and organizational health.
So, how can leaders practice intentional servant leadership that leads to organizational transformation and sustainability?
Put People First
All good leaders place people as their highest priority. The ability to understand and experience the feelings and motivations of your team is essential in a servant leadership culture. It shows people that they matter.
To translate concern into action, intentional servant leaders first must adopt a mindset of humility and genuine care for others. This mindset shift will clear the mind for empathy and compassion.
Good leaders show their team that they care about them more than they care about the bottom line. Consequently, a cared-for team takes care of customers, which helps the bottom line in the long run!
The biggest investment you can make in your team, and thus the health of your organization, is your time. Your team wants to see you lead, but they also want to know why and how you lead. They need guidance, and giving them your time will positively impact their motivation, their knowledge and their job performance. Quality time equals increased connectivity and satisfaction, which equals purpose-driven work and productivity.
Facilitate a Learning Environment
Learning trickles from the top down: It starts with acknowledging fallibility and the limits of one’s own knowledge, which allows employees to learn and develop by their own innovation. This self-determination, which pools into collaboration, has a profound and positive influence on the workplace and creates a learning culture.
Leaders must turn to introspection and reflection to assess their thoughts on organization culture and then shift their thoughts to examine perspectives that will lead to innovation and transformation. Smart leaders use this introspection to then outline their expectations clearly and tailor dynamic work to the unique skills of their employees. Intentional servant leaders know that their organization’s sustainability relies on empowering and developing their people and giving them workplace responsibility for their own actions.
When the servant leader acknowledges the strengths of their employees, they can encourage employees in their personal growth by giving them clear direction for their work.
The best leaders are those who steward their influence well; they have strong character, integrity and compassion for others. Too often, leaders focus on external outcomes to the point that they neglect their own employees. But in reality, when leaders focus internally, they’ll see positive external outcomes.
So when it comes to archaic, inefficient ideas on leadership, President Harry S. Truman had it right. He had a sign on his desk that read: “The buck stops here.” Servanthood and intentionality begins and ends at the top.