Experiencing action and emotion on the ground, with one’s people can be more uplifting and impactful than merely leading from a distance. Why? Because it’s a golden opportunity to understand the expectations of your people and how they want to be led. Some years ago, we raised a cricketing team of third-party vendors (gardeners, electricians, waiters etc.) who had never stepped on the field or owned a cricket kit. As their coach and teammate, I witness history as this ‘Team Baahubali’ won the cricketing championship by drubbing their superiors from office. In this humbling process, I saw their transformation from hesitant individuals to confident individuals who started considering themselves as equals. We also ensured they got the support they needed to boost their careers. Today, some of them are working with us in better and more permanent roles. That’s the magic of servant-leadership style, it not only serves the interests of employees but cares about their well-being while being ‘one of them.’ It’s about monitoring, ensuring a larger impact on workforces, communities and the leadership not putting it’s needs before the others.
Servant-Leadership Style: It’s about serving your people!
Servant leadership has a sub-servient connotation that holds people. Here, the word ‘serve’ is actually the purpose of leadership. In turn, the latter’s goal is to inspire, enable, transform, motivate people and this leadership style is a medium to achieve that.
Any leadership style is subjective and contextual to the situation. A leader should be capable of being a different person in a different context with his/her experience and understanding of a situation. This concept—which rests on humility, vulnerability, empathy, emotion—is alien to a conventional authoritarian leadership style. While serving their people, leaders should be transformative in their approach and lead from behind. They should only come on the forefront at the right opportunity. Therefore, it’s very critical for every leader to have this capability.
Here, it’s simpler to identify with a leader as one is looking at the human side and an emotional connect and who’s the leader or follower doesn’t really matter. This connect is agnostic of the official title or position where one is working, so it’s more of a lifelong bond than a relationship defined by the requirements of the chair.
With reference to the above example of Team Baahubali, it was really about valuing people, listening to them, being humble and learning from them too. As my journey unfolded with them, authority took a backseat as I became a part of their team and their performance spiked. The players began believing in their ability to perform more and they saw themselves as being equals to everyone else. This happened because they experienced this transformation as opposed to a situation if they had merely been told so. On a lighter note, when I played for them last year, I was not even the captain of the team! And that is the beauty of this serving leadership style.
The impact of Serving