How will you truly know whether a leader's skills are fit for the constantly changing business landscape we face in a post-pandemic world? Well, according to research and best practices, they're often referred to as servant leaders.
Labels aside, whatever you decide to call leaders that motivate and inspire others to go above and beyond, one thing is for sure: their actions and behaviors come from their character and integrity.
What I have witnessed in my own practice developing servant leaders is that such leaders shine don't want the attention; they shine the spotlight on their workers and share their power to benefit the people under their care.
To get practical, here are three of the most prevalent leadership behaviors of such leaders.
1. They display selflessness
When placed in the privileged role of a leader, the best of them realize that leadership is about meeting the needs of people. In turn, they go against the age-old protocol of most top-down, command-and-control management styles: putting profits ahead of people.
In bottom-up, servant leadership cultures, such leaders demonstrate selflessness in action by putting followers' interests ahead of their own. This is no small feat, but doing so leads to an unprecedented competitive advantage.
There are several ways that leaders can display selflessness in action, including giving of their time, energy, wisdom, and knowledge to others; and pouring into people's growth to make them better (which makes the leader better).
2. They create opportunities for people to feel a sense of purpose
Plenty of research suggests that when a person finds purpose in their work, it will not only improve that person's happiness, it will boost their productivity. One way to do it is to give employees the chance to connect with and meet the people they are serving. In a well-known study cited by Wharton professor Adam Grant in his seminal bestseller, Give and Take, three separate groups of employees in a university fundraising call center were tasked to call donors to ask for contributions. One of the groups read personal stories from scholarship recipients, about how those scholarships had changed their lives. This group increased their fundraising by 143 percent versus the other groups who just made calls as part of their duties. Here's the kicker: When these same fundraisers were given the opportunity to meet a scholarship recipient and ask them questions for as little as five minutes in person, their fundraising went up by more than 400 percent! Grant's conclusion? Having employees meet the people they are helping is the greatest motivator, even if it's limited to a few minutes.
Employers have a clear, competitive edge when they can give their people access to customers, so they can see firsthand the human impact their work makes.
Leaders need to work with their employees to design work that brings with it purpose. When employees feel they are making a difference in the world through the work they do, that sense of purpose increases their motivation to perform.
3. They serve their employees
To seriously elevate your impact and influence as a leader, you have to remember that leadership is about service and making those around you better. To assess where you are against the high measure of a servant leader, ask yourself, What am I doing every day to improve the life of an employee? If your desire is to place others in the position to be their very best, you are well on your way to becoming an exceptional leader.