Servant leadership is often associated with successful Lean innovations. While many organizations think implementing Lean is deploying a known set of tools, it is truly about changing your organization’s culture. One way to change your culture is to develop and support servant leaders.
Robert Greenleaf is known as coining the phrase “servant leadership” in 1970. Like Toyota, he developed some frameworks that can apply to different organizations but not be directly copied.
Key discoveries that Robert Greenleaf identified are that “servant leadership is a lifelong journey that includes self-discovery, a desire to serve others and a commitment to lead.”
Servant leader characteristics that he identified is that they are:
- Good stewards
- Community builders
These characteristics sound amazing but are they possible in today’s department driven culture? Some organizations drive a scarcity mindset amongst their leaders. This leaves leaders lobbying for scarce budget dollars.
A key element that organizations need in place to support servant-leadership and drive employee engagement is alignment. If the leadership team doesn’t establish a decision-supporting Management System, it is hard to have alignment. Without a Management System as a True North, the decision directing framework is missing.
With a well-defined Management System in place, everyone in the organization understands the business priorities. Aligning everyone’s actions to a common Management System eliminates confusion.
Having leaders ask themselves if what they are doing supports the Management System, they can become more humble, relational, caring and empowering.
While this will not be an overnight transformation- remember Greenleaf suggests it is a lifelong journey- there are some key questions you should be regularly asking yourselves as leaders.
1. Are my actions helping my employees learn and grow?
2. Are my actions helping my employees become more autonomous?
3. Are my actions helping my employees become servant leaders themselves?
These three questions are a great starting point for personal reflection on becoming a servant leader. What I have observed over my career is the companies that use a published Management System are better at supporting Servant Leaders.
The leaders are guided by the principles of the Management System. The decision-making process becomes quick and consistent. This allows leaders to focus their efforts on providing increased employee support. When employees feel supported their engagement increases, turnover decreases, and the company harnesses the power of everyone making them a force to be reckoned with.
Here is the True North of American Lean.
Let me know in the comments some of the best examples of Servant Leadership that you have come across. You can listen to the podcast at American Lean Weekday podcast episode three.
You can listen to the episode on YouTube here!
As always, it is an honor to serve you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!