A recent op-ed discusses the difficulty of living out servant leadership and connecting with employees—showing that it can be difficult to embody the philosophy of a servant leader.
- In a recent Newsweek op-ed, Advocate Health EVP Jim Dunn argues that “servant leadership” has become a buzzword that business leaders often struggle to practice authentically.
- He outlines the story of a fellow business leader who speaks to conferences about the concept but becomes a benevolent dictator and a cruel leader away from the public eye—harming his team and employees through poor leadership.
- He says that the concept tends to invite confusion into workplace relationships, with many prominent servant leaders failing to live out the values they publicly advocate.
- Servant leaders need to master the basics. They cannot be equal their employees while having an attitude that looks down on them. They need to be invested in the success of their employees.
Servant leadership has become a valuable tool in modern business. As we previously reported, the process of building up a team—positively influencing those they serve and fostering growth—has become a respected and valued method for promoting healthy business.
Unfortunately, it is easy to be a poor leader. It takes skill and effort to be a good leader. As Dunn notes, few people have seen good leadership in action due to the fact that good leadership tends to be quiet and does not draw attention to itself. This makes it hard to emulate and model for others. The paradox of good servant leadership is that good servant leaders do not seek approval or praise for doing their job well.
“A servant leader goes a step further, recognizing vision as necessary but insufficient. After communicating direction and strategy as the leader, servant leaders move decisively to turn the pyramid, the traditional hierarchy, on its head, adopting a service mindset to make the vision a reality—to help their people accomplish established goals, solve problems, and live according to the vision,” says Dunn.
“In the end, the irony of true servant leadership is that those who are really practicing it won’t be the ones to shout it from the rooftops. They’ll be too busy rolling up their sleeves with their team, embodying the values they preach. So, the next time you want to call yourself a servant leader, take a step back and ask yourself: am I really leading by serving, or just serving myself?”