I came across an internet post of a proud CEO who posted that servant leadership is core to his company culture. I was very excited to keep reading and maybe learn a thing or two about servant leadership. Most of the writing was to explain that extreme accountability is key to success. What does accountability have to do with servant leadership?
Merriam-webster defines accountability as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. Every role we have in our life comes with responsibilities. When we accept the role, we also accept the responsibilities coming with it. For many people accountability is meeting the goals, do a good job. When you are a leader there is more to it.
The focus of traditional leadership is the success of the organization but for servant leadership, the focus is much broader. Servant leaders understand that the way they treat the employee affect customer service. When the company takes care of the people, the people take care of the operations and the customers. The way we treat the employees determines if the customer satisfaction record will be good or not.
Servant leaders understand that they are accountable for their actions. Those actions include their development and the development of their people. Creating an environment where people flourish is key. Here are two examples, Toyota and Barry Wehmiller.
Toyota leaders must take responsibility for driving Toyota towards perfection. They believe that their employees are the most important asset. Their success is the result of that belief and the development of their people. Not everybody has the talent, skills or desire to become a manager. Their point is that everybody has the right to have a fair shot at it if they want to. With its development program, Toyota does that. Leaders set up subordinates for success by learning and practicing the Toyota values. The core values are respect, teamwork, a spirit of challenge, kaizen mind and, go and see to understand. All these are opportunities for growth, in and out of the workplace.
Barry Wehmiller measures success by the way they touch people’s lives. Their business model fosters personal growth. They created a trust-based environment, allowing teams and individuals to have a meaningful role. This setting challenges them, inspires a sense of pride, and celebrates the best in each person.
Servant leadership is not about employee appreciation lunches, summer picnics, and Christmas parties. We need to start investing in the lives of our employees, create a positive impact. If we care, we have to walk the talk, just training is not enough.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols