Servant Leadership For The Win

Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams.
If leaders are able to reframe their role and responsibility as that of servant leaders, productivity will grow and engagement will grow.

A leader’s impact is rarely neutral; they either have a positive or negative impact on team member productivity and engagement. My best boss, Jerry Nutter, used to say, “A leader either helps, hinders, or hurts.”

A 2014 24/7 Wall Street article shared the top six-figure jobs in the US. Surprising (to me), six of the ten entries were managers of people. Managing people is a big responsibility, with a huge impact on team performance and team member engagement.

The 24/7 Wall Street report indicates that people managers are paid well. Is the investment in people managers paying off for US companies? Let’s look at two factors – productivity and engagement.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that productivity growth in the US has stalled. There is hope for greater productivity in 2018 but economists have never been able to discover exactly what drives productivity. One is quoted as saying, “We don’t really know where it comes from.”

Leaders must coach well, listen well, redirect when needed – and trust team members.
On the engagement front, Gallup’s 2017 “State of the Global Workforce” found that between 2009 and the number of “actively disengaged” people in the workplace fell from 26% to 17%. That’s good. What is interesting is that, on the other end of the scale, the number of engaged employees stayed the same (approximately 33%). That number has not changed significantly in 20 years. So, over 55% of team members do not believe their current work environment treats them with trust, dignity, and respect.

This data leads us to an undeniable conclusion: many well-paid people managers have a less-than-stellar impact on team member productivity and engagement.

How can leaders shift this tide? My research and experience tell me that leaders need to reframe their role and responsibilities as that of servant leaders. Their entire “reason for being” is to help team members build the right skills, to help team members apply those skills in service to team goals and team customers, and to create a safe, inspiring work environment for everyone on the team.

Leaders must coach well, listen well, redirect when needed – and trust team members. Engaged, talented team members deserve the responsibility and authority to act independently, in the moment. Engaged team members that are learning needed skills aren’t ready for independent action – they need mentoring and guidance to build needed skills.

Team members, customers, and company stakeholders will all benefit, together.

How have your best bosses created workplace trust, dignity, and respect? How have your servant leaders helped you grow and thrive at work? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

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