“The warrior is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who can not provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.”- Chief Sitting Bull
In today’s world, characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), effective leadership demands continuous self-improvement. To improve oneself requires consistent skill development and growth. As a Navy SEAL leader, I learned one crucial lesson for how to show up daily: an unwavering dedication to servant leadership. Robert K. Greenleaf presented ten foundational principles of what makes a servant leader in 1970. These principles offer a powerful framework to navigate VUCA, encouraging empathy, empowerment, and service to others. Let’s explore how to embrace servant leadership.
Servant Leadership Principles
Servant leadership is characterized by genuine impulse for service, as opposed to being a leadership tactic. It requires the courage to relinquish the pursuit of authority and power for its own sake, while embracing empathy and compassion in an unwavering dedication to the welfare of others. In applying the ten core principles of servant leadership—listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community—you can cultivate an inclusive, supportive, and resilient organizational culture while driving transformative change and sustainable success.
Eyes off Yourself: It’s imperative to be fully present and attuned to the needs of each team member. Trust and empathy are necessary components to engaging with your team. Recognize and leverage your team’s unique strengths, and provide support to help them address weaknesses. Create an environment where open dialogue is encouraged, and everyone feels empowered to contribute their ideas and perspectives. When your team feels empowered, it fosters innovation and builds a strong sense of belonging and community.
Trust the Team: While having an individualized focus, you must also serve the collective good, often before individual interests. Empowering your team grants them a stake in the organization’s success, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability. This empowerment, coupled with trust, encourages employees to take calculated risks, innovate, and explore new avenues for growth and improvement.
Build Community: An essential component of servant leadership is knitting individuals into a cohesive community aligned with the organization’s values and mission. By exemplifying these values in your actions and decisions, you inspire others to follow suit. This collective sense of purpose and commitment enables your organization to adapt, thrive, and positively impact.
In embracing these principles of servant leadership, you can create environments where trust, innovation, and a shared sense of purpose. I have seen firsthand how this approach enhances personal and organizational resilience. And we need that resilience these days.