It's always great when DeKalb LEADS alumni share their perspectives on leadership! Thank you, April, for the reminder of the importance of modeling good leadership and highlighting why unique perspectives matter within organizations!
At a pivotal time in my professional journey, I was fortunate to have a leader within the company I worked for become my mentor. He believed in my ability enough to invest in who I was as a person and we explored who I wanted to be as a leader. As it turned out, there were many similarities in our approaches which led to our study of servant leadership.
The first of four pillars of servant leadership is encouraging diversity in thought. Each individual on a team will have a unique perspective based on their experiences and giving their voices a chance to be heard must be seen as an advantage. Diversity in thought removes power and promotes collaboration. A servant leader must embolden their team members to share ideas as this is vital to the growth of not only the individual but also the organization. I have found success in simply framing a question differently. Instead of asking “Do you have a question/feedback?”, I will directly ask “What feedback do you have?” It is a simple practice that has encouraged confidence in team members to share their ideas without hesitation.
The second pillar can be the most difficult as it involves creating a culture of trust. This requires patience, consistency, and clear communication. A Leader’s intentions plus their actions equal the will of the team. A leader that consistently shows they are there to serve and support an individual will see positive results. Trust is influenced by experience and can be difficult to navigate when different levels of trust exist within a team. I have struggled with this at times as my support is based on what is needed, rather than what is wanted. My goal is to remain consistent and give grace to others as well as myself along the way.
A servant leader must have an unselfish mindset. The willingness to serve the members of your team is indispensable. This is the “we before me” principle and it is so vital to the success of the team. And that’s the whole point, right? The success of the team. This is where persistence is so important. If the team members feel supported and served, it will be reciprocated. The quote that comes to mind is by Harry Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
The fourth pillar involves promoting leadership in others. This involves mentoring, coaching, and fostering growth in new leaders. Investing in the professional and personal growth of an individual is so important. My experience is that the lack of traditional leadership titles curbs the confidence to lead in some individuals. I encourage everyone to see themselves as a leader, despite their title.
The familiar tone of these pillars points to one thing, connection to others. I remain indebted to my former mentor who made a connection and invested in my leadership journey.
Production Control Section Manager
DeKalb LEADS Alumni, 2020-21