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Developing servant leadership skills: Key Differences from Traditional Leadership and How to Develop Skills

As a leader in an agile organization, you know that success depends on the ability to foster collaboration, drive innovation, and empower your team members. One way to achieve these goals is through the practice of servant leadership. 

The concept of servant leadership refers to a mode of leadership that prioritises the team's needs over the leader's own. It's based on the principle that leaders ought to assist their employees rather than the other way around. This is one manner in which servant leadership departs from traditional styles of leadership, which often prioritise the needs and goals of the leader over those of the team. a team of 4 discussing in an office

How is it different from the traditional leadership?

Typically, in traditional leadership, the leader acts as a figure of authority who issues directives from on high. This method of management places less value on team growth and happiness in favour of getting things done.

However, servant leadership emphasises the team's needs over the leader's own. Servant leaders prioritize the well-being and development of the team, and work to create an environment that fosters trust, collaboration, and empowerment. Because it promotes individual accountability and decision-making within teams, this style of leadership works well in Agile settings.

To put it another way, the focus of traditional leadership is on the leader, but in servant leadership it is on the team. A servant leader is someone who goes above the traditional manager role to act as a mentor, coach and a guide to their team members.

Understanding that servant leadership in the workplace necessitates a mental shift and a willingness to alter one's approach is crucial for those in positions of authority. It takes time and effort to master, so don't expect to pick it up overnight.


Now, the question is how you can improve your servant leadership abilities to meet the needs of your agile team. These pointers should help you begin going in the right direction.

How can you develop servant leadership skills?

  1. Give your team's requirements top priority. The leader of a servant-oriented team puts the needs of their followers ahead of their own. This can be as easy as helping out team members in ways that aren't technically part of your job description, or as complex as ensuring that the team's goals are congruent with the larger goals of the company.

  2. Communicate in a way that is open and honest. Trust-building through open communication is key in servant leadership. This entails accepting criticism and honestly assessing one's own abilities.

  3. Invest in your team's potential by giving them responsibility. Members of a team with a servant leader are trusted to make their own decisions and own their output. Giving your employees additional responsibility has multiple positive effects on morale and productivity.

  4. Motivate people to work together as a team. Leaders who put others first understand the need of teamwork in an adaptive environment. They encourage open communication and collaboration amongst team members, which can lead to greater levels of originality and invention.

  5. Do some research on the topic of servant leadership. Anyone interested in reading up on servant leadership can do so at their leisure. Books like "The Servant Leader" by James Autry and online resources like the International Journal of Servant-Leadership are great places to learn more about servant leadership.

If you want to be an effective leader of an agile team, cultivating your servant-leadership abilities is a must. Learn how to approach issues with a servant leadership mindset and prioritise team needs for a mutually beneficial outcome. Continuously develop your servant leadership skills as a leader, servant, coach, and mentor.

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