If every manager were a servant-leader, employee engagement would be at an all-time high.
Instead, as we saw in a previous post, the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer shows employee engagement is now at an all-time low.
And, as we explored in last week’s post, Gallup’s research shows that an employee’s manager makes or breaks employee engagement. I think most of us know this to be true from our personal experiences.
So, we need more servant leadership in the workplace – now!
Why does servant leadership lead to high employee engagement? Here’s our short list of reasons:
- Servant-leaders choose to serve those they lead. A commitment to servant leadership changes the power dynamics between manager and those managed. Rather than demanding that followers serve them, servant-leaders find meaningful ways to serve those they lead. They regularly ask, “How can I help you succeed?” The effects of this “serve first” on employee engagement are dramatic.
- Servant-leaders make sure other’s highest priority needs are being served. Come on, how often have we seen managers try to remedy low employee engagement in purely tactical ways? Employees like tactical things – but they need strategic things: connection to a larger purpose, a sense of belonging and continuous personal growth. Managers take note: Addressing high-priority needs results in richer engagement than creating short-term incentives or gimmicks.
- Servant-leaders believe work is meaningful. Work exists for the person as much as the person exists for the work. Servant-leaders see dignity in all work. They seek to match the worker to the work. As Howard Behar says, “the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.” (You can hear more from Howard on this Servant Leadership Session podcast). Where employees find meaning, there they are engaged.
- Servant-leaders develop others to be leaders. Servant-leaders are committed to the growth of people and invest in their development. They build personal trusting, relationships with the people they lead. “I’ve got to know you to grow you,” says Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. This allows the leader to discover the aspirations of each team member and identify developmental opportunities that allow for growth.
- Servant-leaders inspire virtuous cycles of service. When managers take their responsibility to serve employees seriously, the employees catch on quickly. In turn, they are more serious in their efforts to serve their customers and each other. The magic of servant-leadership is the way it creates virtuous cycles of service. Working in an environment like this is fun, fulfilling and energizing. Being a customer can be the same. Think of your encounters with Southwest Airlines or The Container Store – or any other workplace with high engagement.
Servant leadership may not be a fast track to higher employee engagement. But among the tracks we know, it is the fastest and most direct route to sustained results.
If you have something to add to the list, please do so in the comment section below.
If you’d like to explore how servant leadership could improve employee engagement at your company, contact us.