Exploring Servant Leadership: Comparing the old world and the new (Part III)

In this mini-series we’re exploring Servant Leadership and contrasting it with the traditional Boss Leadership alternative.

In Part I we examined the problems and consequences of Boss Leadership. In Part II we explored how Servant Leadership works.

In this final article we’ll complete the picture by looking at the consequences of Servant Leadership and directly comparing and contrasting it with Boss Leadership.

First let’s assess the key consequences of Servant Leadership, just as we did for Boss Leadership in Part I.

Consequences of Servant Leadership

Key consequences of Servant Leadership that map directly to the Boss Leadership list:

Dramatically reduced bureaucracy with a much smaller work-management industry and far fewer work-management artefacts, saving time and money

Effective and efficient communication mainly through face-to-face discussion

Minimal delays implementing changes with rapid decision-making involving the right people

Steadily decreasing workload and stress for the team leader who is now “out of the loop” and working on the system, not in the system

High-trust with team members because they have lots of autonomy, are actively encouraged to show initiative and rewarded for taking responsibility

Rapid development of skills and experience throughout the team

Leaders are far closer to the work with a much clearer and stronger picture of what is happening on the ground

Ascent into a culture where rapidly performing small safe experiments generates hard data to focus the team and remove risks

But consequences don’t end there, it also produces:

Flatter organisation with many fewer layers that doesn’t feel hierarchical

Increased innovation at a far faster pace

Everyone gains a good understanding of the whole end-to-end service which significantly improves alignment across the business

Significantly increased control

Happier teams with far less dogmatic disagreement

The growth of the powerful force of team accountability which can push people to work harder and more diligently

Are there any negative consequences?

That depends on your point of view. With Servant Leadership you end up with fewer managers and management layers, which not everyone will favour. However, those that remain will be far more effective and have a much more satisfying job.

Building a Servant Leadership culture can’t be done overnight

Working in this way can be alien to people who are steeped in traditional management cultures. There can be an element of culture shock and fears and misunderstandings that need active engagement to address. But considering the benefits, it is well worth it.

It is also true to say that building a Servant Leadership culture can’t be done overnight. It takes time and persistent focus to re-organise in this way. You can’t simply relabel people’s roles, cross your fingers and hope. There is no way to do that.

Comparing and contrasting Boss Leadership and Servant Leadership

Let’s compare and contrast the two styles more closely:

Boss Leadership
Servant Leadership
Management Paradigm
Command and Control
Inspire and Inform
Shared Outcome Goals
Set by Boss
Set by Team Leader
Strategy and Direction
Set by Boss
Set by Team Leader
Workflow Strategy
Boss part of Team Workflow
Team Leader separate to Team Workflow
Leadership Focus
Demonstrate Boss is in Control
Improve Team until they don’t need Team Leader
Most Leadership Time
Remote: Meetings and Checking Work
Face-to-face: Listening to and Supporting the Team
Method of Working
Set by Boss
Chosen by Team
Motivation Strategy
Stick, Carrot, Money
Purpose, Autonomy, Mastery, Money
Control Strategy
Document, Inspect and Audit
Highly Visible Work and Closeness to Team
Communication Strategy
Remote: Documents and Emails
Face-to-face: Demonstration and Engagement
Reporting Strategy
Paper and Meetings
Visible Work with various Stand-Ups
Education Strategy
Send People on Courses
Experiment and Help Team Learn
Innovation Mindset
Ask Permission
Ask Forgiveness and Learn
Innovation Strategy
Demand People Innovate
Engender Culture that delivers Innovation
Decision Strategy
Boss makes all Decisions
Decisions Delegated whenever possible
Trust Strategy
Trust is Irrelevant: Do As I Say
Trust is Everything
Management Focus
Micromanaging Work and Activity
Understanding Needs and Providing Support
Who Matters Most?
The Boss
The Team
Who is Accountable?
The Boss
Attitude to Failure
Don’t Fail! (Fail-Safe)
Fail and Learn First Time (Safe-Fail)
Most Common Request
‘Tell me What You’ve Done’
‘Tell me What You Need’

As I’m sure you can see, there’s a big and fundamental difference between the two styles, even if they do have some things in common.

I hope this mini-series has helped open your eyes to an alternative management paradigm and has at least made you question and consider your own leadership style. With luck you’ll also have found some useful practical alternatives to current approaches that aren’t delivering the results you so badly need.

Remember: it’s a journey and it won’t happen overnight. The main thing is to keep learning and continuing to improve.

Best of luck becoming a better servant leader!

Posted in Decision-Making, Leadership.

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