Most employees are not going to really care about their work or their organization’s customers until they themselves feel cared for. In other words, if you don’t care, they won’t care.
But what makes an employee feel that their organization does in fact care about them? The research on employee engagement is actually a great place to start looking for an answer to this question. One study of engagement, conducted in 2012 by the Dale Carnegie organization, notes:
“… engaged employees lead to happy, loyal customers and repeat business. …although there are multiple factors affecting engagement, the personal relationship between a manager and his or her direct reports is the most influential.”
Of course, this relationship between supervisor and employee has many dimensions, and it’s worth noting that many of the factors that go into the relationship have themselves been identified as key drivers of engagement. These include:
- The opportunity for stimulating work
- Opportunities for professional development
- Having his/her opinions listened to
- Recognition for good work.
Clearly, a direct supervisor plays a critical—a “direct”— role in each of these areas.
So here’s the question: how can an organization get its direct supervisors—and in fact, its leaders at every level—to put time and effort into making sure that their employees have the opportunity to develop new skills and do stimulating work, have their opinions listened to, and receive the recognition they deserve? And what might happen if you and your organization embraced a leadership model that demonstrated this kind of caring for your people every day.
All of which brings me to Servant-Leadership.
Servant- leaders put their people and their organization first, well ahead of their own prerogatives as the “boss.” Servant-leaders share power and decision making as much as possible. Instead of harping on the weaknesses of the people who work for them, they build on their strengths, providing opportunities for professional development and stretch assignments. Servant-leaders listen to the opinions and ideas of others, regardless of position. They co-create solutions , tapping into the collective genius of the people in their organizational unit. And servant-leaders direct the spotlight away from themselves and onto others, sharing recognition or giving it away entirely. Finally, they do this with high levels of emotional intelligence!
The result? Servant-led organizations (which include industry leaders like Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, and Starbucks) outperform their competitors across a whole range of key performance metrics.
The bottom line? For me, at least, it’s simply this: Servant-leadership is a better way to lead!
What do you think?