Over the years I have had a great deal of experience with leaders at my company, team leaders, managers, directors and vice presidents. Today I will focus on the team leaders I have had direct contact with. Over my 28 year career with Verizon, I have had no less than 15 team leaders, almost all different in the approach they took to lead the various teams I have served on. Most of the teams that I have been a part of have been relatively successful; some have been led by folks, who took the skills approach to leadership that is they demonstrated that they knew your job and probably knew it better than those doing the work. Northouse states “that the skills approach suggests that knowledge and abilities are needed for effective leadership” (Northouse 2016, Pg. 42). I have found over the years that the team leaders that demonstrated skills have been the most respected and have had the most success.
I have also worked for team leaders who have demonstrated servant behaviors. Northouse states; “Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them. Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal capacities” (Northouse 2016, Pg. 225). The team leaders who exhibited these behaviors seemed to do well at the beginning, but always seemed to drop off in production and popularity shortly after arriving to the department. I believe this drop off has two components. The first is that the associated in my department are union members and as we know union members demand equal treatment across the board, no matter who your team leader and what style of leadership the team leader adopts. A team leader who comes in with servant tendencies, putting the follower first usually sparks a litany of grievances because they are treating the followers on their teams different than say a team leader who will just demand results from their teams. When the servant leader is then forced to treat their team equally to other teams in the department, their followers resent it and production goes down. The second reason for drop off is that people I work with usually will only do what is expected and no more, when a servant leader extends help as they will often do, the follower lowers the bar of what is expected and when leader tries to raise the bar, resentment settles in and production drops off again. My observations of servant leaders are one of initial success but ultimate failure for the reasons described above. What are your experiences with servant leaders?
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications