After reading about the servant leadership model, it was admittedly difficult to think of a real-life example of the theory, as it runs counter to everything I think of when I think about the topic of leadership. It was difficult to think of a leader who could be successful in achieving organizational goals by implementing common servant leadership behaviors such as humility or empowerment (Northouse, 2016). However, I believe that the manager of the Report Operations department of a company where I used to work was an excellent example of servant leadership.
Her team exhibits existing conditions that would make a group amenable and successful under servant leadership. This is important because studies show that servant leadership is only effective when followers show a desire and are predisposed for it (Northouse, 2016). There are three antecedent conditions within this model: context and culture, leader attributes and follower receptivity (Northouse, 2016). The organizational context includes a general workplace culture of caring and great work-life balance. In terms of leader attributes, this manager does not seem to exhibit a strong desire to lead by coercion. Instead, she seems happy to serve and take little credit for herself. Lastly, her followers are not the type of employees who enjoy great amounts of independence in terms of decision making and directives. Therefore, overall, the group is predisposed to be acceptant of servant leadership.
There are servant leader behaviors that make up the core of the servant leadership process according to Liden, Wayne, et al. (Northouse, 2016). A few that this manager exhibit outrightly are emotional healing and helping followers grow and succeed (Northouse, 2016).
Emotional healing involves being sensitive to the needs and well-being of others (Northouse, 2016). This manager exhibits emotional intelligence and is great at reading the mood of each employee. For instance, she recently reached out to an employee personally because she thought something seemed off. Her performance was weaker than usual, and her spirits seemed low. I think that a lot of managers might not take the time to have this type of discussion with their employees, but she took the time to have the conversation. It can also be uncomfortable discussing these types of issues. As a result of the discussion, she found out that her employee was dealing with some serious issues with her daughter at home. To be supportive, the manager offered a weekly work from home day, so that her employee could be more accessible to her daughter.
In terms of letting others grow and succeed, leaders should be aware of their follower’s goals and help them to be successful (Northouse, 2016). The report operations manager recently assisted one of her employees to work toward a promotion. So firstly, the manager would have needed to be aware of her employee’s desire. This means that she is attuned to her employee’s needs which requires time and communication. Additionally, she acted in her employee’s best interests by providing much-needed guidance, feedback and support along the way. This is a great example of servant leadership in action, as this model means that leaders make their follower’s careers a priority (Northouse, 2016).
A review of servant leadership would not be entirely complete without a view of the outcomes (Northouse, 2016). Two of these are follower performance and growth and organizational performance (Northouse, 2016). This manager’s servant leadership has proven effective in promoting her people within the organization, as per the example cited above. She recognized the potential of her employee and worked to help her realize her professional goals (Northouse, 2016). The employee did very well on her interviews as a result of the coaching that was provided be her manager. Additionally, her manager gave very positive feedback and information to the hiring manager regarding her employee’s performance and qualifications. As a result, she was offered the promotion!
Additionally, organizational performance in part means that teams will display increased team effectiveness and confidence (Northouse, 2016). The report operation manager’s team of about five individuals work daily to complete tasks from an online queue of requests. Metrics are maintained regarding these requests and the team boasts 99% accuracy. Also, the team seems to work very well together and bands together when under pressure to meet deadlines.
Leadership can have many faces and applications. Although the typical view of leadership denotes power and maybe even coercion, servant leadership can also be highly effective, given the context (Northouse 2016).
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc