In my years of experience, both in business and in life, I’ve come to realize just how powerful the impact of servant leadership can be. It can take many forms, and I’d say it’s almost contagious once you’ve experienced it.
Whether you’re looking to grow and scale your business, create a positive and productive workplace, take care of your community, or all of the above – servant leadership has a ripple effect that is undeniable. When you experience servant leadership and adopt it as your own leadership style, it’ll change your business, your life, and the lives of those around you.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have leaders who were invested in me within my past organizations. They gladly took me in and patiently taught a scruffy kid about the foundations of leadership. Many years have passed since then, and in that time we have become lifelong friends who are always there for one another. And while we still support each other in our leadership journeys, we’ve also come to appreciate having true friends to share in our personal lives.
When I first stepped into a role similar to those of my mentors, I looked back on my experiences with them in gratitude. Then it dawned on me; I realized that all of my mentors have been intentional about leading with a people-first approach.
My coworkers and I were more than just a KPI or a butt in a seat. We were respected as people first – complete with all the emotions, talents, personal lives, and unique qualities that make us who we are. It didn’t matter what our job titles were – we always felt valued and invested in.
To say that it’s empowering to be appreciated in your workplace would be an understatement. This is the secret to success in leadership and in business. When leaders set aside their egos and eschew the traditional approach of being the boss to an underling, more opportunities for everyone to thrive are organically created across the board.
A natural flow of increasing productivity will be consistently observed and built upon – because the people in the organization are supported and mentored through challenges by their leaders and peers. And when they succeed, their wins are credited to them and graciously celebrated by the whole team.
Servant leadership comes naturally to me as my leadership language has always been ‘acts of service.’ This allows me to effectively lead as I start every day with just one single question: “How can I help my team today?” And as simple as it sounds, it’s had a positive impact on me, my team, and our business.
This routine allows me to focus on areas that need help the most, and it enables me to always make sure that I am putting all the right people in the right seats. A leader’s goal is to provide a clear mission, a vision of where the company is headed, attainable goals that align with the company vision, and a winning culture where team members can thrive and grow. And that includes ensuring that they are placed exactly where they need to be for them to be most effective and successful.
Beyond the workplace
I believe that one’s leadership does not start or stop in the workplace. Servant leadership means that your leadership extends above and beyond the bounds of the job, especially to the communities that allow you and your teams to thrive.
For example, outside of work, I serve as a mentor for SKU, an accelerator program for stellar consumer product startups. I love the opportunity to work with those who are just getting started in their entrepreneurial journey. I’m not only there to share my years of knowledge in business with them, but to also pass on the importance of being a people-focused leader. Just as my mentors invested in me, I am invested in my team at work and others I mentor outside of work.
At HireBetter, we are proud to be partnered with clients who also embody and embrace servant leadership. In the initial months of a very challenging “COVID” year, ALEN Corp., which produces HEPA air purifiers, stepped up and donated their products to help protect those on the frontlines. That included a team of ER Physicians . They also dismantled their filters to take out the HEPA material, which was then stuffed into masks sewn by volunteers. These masks were donated to frontline workers who were scrambling to secure N95 masks.
Hearing the urgent concerns of educators navigating COVID, Alen restructured the company to prioritize both inventory and staff support to our nation’s schools. Alen even made the tough decision to purposely go out of stock to consumers last summer to move schools to the front of the line.
One of our core values is to always do the right thing, and we are incredibly proud to work with ALEN, whose leaders so boldly and selflessly did just that.
Another client-partner, Woom Bikes, has been incredibly generous with their community work and has donated their bicycles to children who have suffered under lockdown. We admire Woom Bikes for their servant leadership, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of all of our client-partners who continue to be beacons of hope in their communities.
Every member is a leader
Servant leadership doesn’t just apply to those who are appointed as leaders, but to everyone in the organization. This is exemplified by the entire HireBetter team each and every day, but even more so during the past year. COVID has not only taken lives, but it shut down the economy too.
Knowing the importance of supporting each member of our team – especially during those times – our people stepped up as leaders. As business started to slow down, Kurt Wilkin, our Visionary Co-Founder, forwent his entire salary and I took a deep cut to minimize the impact on the rest of the team.
The most impressive thing of all though, and for this I will forever be thankful, was that the rest of the team took a temporary salary reduction to help the company during those difficult times. I will always be proud of our entire team for being selfless leaders who sacrifice their own for the good of everyone. They even volunteered their time and expertise to help those most affected by the turn of events in our community, including local businesses and jobseekers. To me, this is the essence of servant leadership.
I used to think that at the core of a business is the CEO who makes the organization’s most important decisions. Suffice to say, everyone does look to the CEO to come up with creative solutions to challenging situations. Don’t get me wrong, this still happens with me every now and then. But effective leadership is very different from a scenario where a leader holes up by their self and hands down a decision that they single-handedly crafted for everyone to fulfill.
Servant leadership means that the leader is among the people because that’s where they feel at home. They embrace the opinions of the members of the organization. They have first-hand knowledge of every situation and understand the challenges as they come. Their decisions are based on input from their team because they highly respect and value each and every one of them.
In short, everyone becomes a leader on their own right. Servant leadership is not about emphasizing who is in power, but empowering the unique and talented people who make up your organization.
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