How do you approach Servant Leadership? Do you aspire to serve those you lead?
I’ve struggled a bit with what the concept of servant leadership truly implies. A servant’s master can command the servant to perform tasks that primarily further the master’s self interest. If, as servant leaders, we must obey the physicians and staff no matter what their command, I’m not interested in that role.
If the physician and support staff share my commitment to serving the patient, which of course they do, then servant leadership makes sense because we are all aligned in service to our patients. So the question in servant leadership is, “who are we serving?”
If as leaders we are supporting our caregivers, and are aligned with them in serving our patients, we are doing the right thing.
The organization’s True North, as embodied in its vision, mission, and core values statements are important to clarify this shared commitment and alignment.
These must be more than documents displayed on a wall in the lobby. This alignment works when everyone collectively pursues True North every day. The leader component of being a servant leader is to clarify, and relentlessly communicate, the vision of the organization. It also requires ensuring that the whole team is aligned and supporting the vision. These are the people you empower.
The servant component is exemplified in the Lean principle of Respect for People.
Servant Leadership Challenges
When people are not aligned, they don’t deserve to be served by the leader. Then the leader’s role is to coach mentor the unaligned back to supporting the team. An important step in this process is getting to the root cause of the non-alignment. When physicians and staff experience burnout, they may become cynical and work against the alignment of the rest of the group. Addressing the root cause of the burnout then becomes key.
Leadership in service to our patients, aligned with and supporting our caregivers, and pursuing True North, makes sense. I am proud to be that kind of servant leader.
What do you think?
How do you view servant leadership?