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Servant Leadership and Employee Empowerment

empowerment“Organizations that empower folks further down the chain or get rid of the hierarchical chains and allow decision making to happen on a more local level end up being more adaptive and resilient because there are more minds involved in the problem.”  ~Steven Johnson
Servant-Leaders choose to empower individuals and teams. In the workplace, it is critical that Servant-Leaders enable employees to think, behave and take the appropriate actions to control their work and to make decisions as independent, autonomous individuals. This power encourages employees to take control of their own destiny- at work and in their personal lives.
Empowerment can be defined as allowing people to make choices that transfer into desired outcomes and to achieve influence within an organization. It has also been called participative management.
So, we have to be clear that empowerment is not seen as what Servant-Leaders do for their employees. If empowerment is thought of from this perspective, generally speaking, employees will wait until empowerment is bestowed upon them by a manager or leader rather than acting and behaving from an empowered position of authority.
When Servant-Leaders encourage, involve, and enable their employees, the organizational benefits include:

  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved delivery of service
  • Increased creativity and innovation
  • Increased productivity, and
  • Increased competitive advantage for the organization

From a Servant-Leader perspective, there are 10 key values for empowering one’s employees:
Value People
Servant-Leaders are mindful that how they feel about people can be seen and felt through their everyday actions and words. Body language (verbal and non-verbal) expresses your consciousness about the people who report to you. A Servant-Leader appreciates each individual’s unique value and contribution, irrespective of an employee’s ability to perform a task. Visibility of a Servant-Leader’s appreciation and respect of employees is key.
Share The Organization’s Vision
Servant-Leaders make sure that everyone in the organization understands and is committed to the mission, vision, and strategic plans. These leaders walk the walk and talk the talk regarding the overall mission of the organization. Employees who feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their individual job tend to play a more committed role to the organization and the world.
Trust Your Employees
Trust is key in the workplace. Servant-Leaders intentionally trust that their team will make the right decision, do the right thing, and act with humility. When leaders trust first, employees feel that and act accordingly. This is the path to gaining trust. Servant-Leaders trust to be trusted.
Share Information
Servant-Leaders do not hoard information. As a matter of fact, allowing employees access to information allows employees the ability to make thoughtful and sound decisions. Information sharing from leaders assures employees that their thought about what is in the best interest of the organization is valued and appreciated.
Give Authority Away And Not Just More Work
Employees grow and develop new skills when they are given authority and creativity to handle more than just the busy work. Servant-Leaders delegate important meetings, projects, and committee work that impact product development and that customers notice. It’s all about letting your people shine.
Provide Positive Feedback
One of most important goals of feedback is reward and recognition. Employees want to know how they are doing, and they deserve constructive feedback. Servant-Leaders realize the importance of talking to employees, praising them as well as reviewing employee’s performance while honoring the person.
Look At Problems, Not People
Problems on the job are related to systems and not people. Servant-Leaders understand that if there is a problem in the workplace, the first thought is to look at the work system. What in the system caused employees to fail? How can the system be adjusted to promote the success of the employee? Servant-Leaders always choose to address the problem and not bash the person.
Look, Learn, Listen, Ask
Servant-Leaders know that listening is one of the core competencies of this style of leadership. They guide conversations by not telling grown up adults what to do but seek employees to provide the right answers. Generally speaking, employees know what it is, they just need the opportunity to reveal it. When problems arise, the Servant-Leaders ask, “What do you think you should do to solve the problem?” or “What action steps do you recommend for a healthy resolve?”
Recognize and Reward Empowered Behavior
When employees are rewarded for empowered behavior, organizations get more from their employees; energy, commitment, creativity, and fun. The list is endless to the amount of give-back employees will engage in when they feel compensated, correctly-title for the work they do, noticed, praised and appreciated. Servant-Leaders know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that when the basic needs of the employee are met, they will give that extra effort voluntarily to their work.
At the end of the day, Servant-Leaders invest in their employees and the organization. Indeed, it is their responsibility to create and sustain a work environment where employees act and behave in empowered ways. Servant-Leaders are mindful of the barriers that inhibit empowered thinking, and they work to remove them. Empowered employees create a workplace of joy.
To Empowerment,
Dr. Crystal

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