When we looked back over the past 19 episodes, we noticed a recurring theme bubbling to the surface. It’s fitting too, because this theme is what our parent company, CGP Maintenance and Construction Services is all about: Servant Leadership. Each episode has been focused on different aspects of our common field, construction, but like clockwork, we have naturally gravitated toward interviews with people displaying our core value. Because of this common thread, we decided to devote an entire episode to reflecting on Servant Leadership.
Before we look at a list of what a Servant Leader *is* or *is not*, let’s review what we are even discussion here. This concept was born in the 1970s when Robert Greenleaf published an essay called “The Servant Leader.” He noted that a Servant Leader is a servant first and foremost, and that it is a conscious choice to present that way. Let’s think about that. Most people who are naturally servant-hearted don’t necessarily fall in line with leadership organically, so for someone in authority to possess both of those skills usually takes personal development and critical decision-making to perfect the art of Servant Leadership. Knowing these things, let’s review some of the notable features of a man or woman who has mastered this art.
Servant Leaders are generous with their resources. Shawn says that “The single most important thing [about] leadership is generosity.” This goes for our time, money, everything. When we stop clamping our hands closed on our resources of all kinds, we get a constant rewarding flow of resources going out and coming back in.
Servant Leaders make “People over Profits” their mission statement. Let’s all make a pact to true up our priority list if we ever consider another human a stepping stone, a means to an end, collateral damage, or anything else of the sort.
Servant Leaders listen to their team. Learning to be good listeners can help us greatly in life in general, but in business, this single skill can make our employees feel important, empowered, valuable, and give them the courage to grow. A bad leader says they are open to feedback, but when it comes, they don’t implement changes or take thoughts other than their own into consideration.
Servant Leaders don’t micromanage and they aren’t control freaks. No one wants to have someone looking over their shoulder, and if we hire people that we actually trust, we shouldn’t have to do this anyway. We need to place some trust in our own hiring skills and believe that maybe our own ideas aren’t the only ones that matter or can be fruitful.
Servant Leaders multiply skills and talents. Shawn says “Leaders create leaders,” and as bosses, we should always be looking for growth opportunities for our people. If we don’t encourage that and ensure that they are constantly on a climb to success, we have failed.
Servant Leaders don’t seek glory. Shawn says “If you’re going to lead a team, you need to stop worrying about getting the credit.” We must learn that as the boss, we should take no credit but accept all responsibility. When we win, we win as a team, but when we lose, it is because we need to improve our leadership skills. This humbling concept is difficult on our ego, but it falls right in line with the “people over profits” mentality.
Servant Leaders are able to see beyond immediate results. A bad boss is one who sees goals as a sprint and burns out their team to meet them day by day. A good leader will see their overall goals as a marathon and train for it alongside their team.
Servant Leaders follow 3 main principles: 1) Find the smartest people you can. 2) Give them the right tools. And 3) Give them the right direction. When we do these things, we have checked all of our responsibility boxes and the results should naturally follow. If not, then we have to take responsibility for the fact that we must not have actually completed each principle.
So even though a good Servant Leader puts people first, we still have to consider the general health and growth of our company, so what’s in it for us? This question takes us back to the first item on the list. When we invest in our teams and prioritize this leadership style, then we will watch our people grow and our company naturally grow with them. We will also build loyalty by investing in our people and as a result, they will push for our business to be successful as well. It’s that circular flow of resources. When we are generous with our time and money and we hold them out with an open hand, they will come back in more than they go out, and that’s a business model we can get down with.