Take your team to first place -- by putting yourself last

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by Rand O’Leary

Many high performing companies have discovered the value of servant leadership, which simply defined is serving others first.  When leaders make this simple, but fundamental mind shift, the culture and the organization will follow as will bottom line results.  Employees working under leaders who put their needs first, build self-confidence, make decisions more autonomously, have greater job satisfaction and engagement, and are more likely to practice this same style with their direct reports.

How does servant leadership build organizational and team performance?


Teams that trust each other are more likely to take risk, and taking calculated risks is what drives organizational growth.  Leaders in risk adverse cultures will only push strategies or ideas that minimize their risk.  This is not the way to achieve sustained growth. Servant leaders push their teams to have complete and transparent conversations without fear of reprisal, the blame and shame culture, if present, must be fully eradicated for trust to be built.


Diversity of thought and opinions is what drives better decision making and is the fuel of innovation.  We’ve all heard the saying, “hire the best and brightest and then get out of their way.” Sometimes this is easy to say, but difficult to practice.  The servant leader understands that the best decisions are a byproduct of collective thoughts.  We all bring different backgrounds, experiences and wisdom to the table.  Servant leaders recognize this and create the environment for all to be heard.


Being truly humble is the true sign of a servant leader.  Recognizing when your wrong, being open to other ideas (not just your own) is a sign to your team that you value them.  Leaders who show their vulnerability to their teams, build long lasting relationships and loyalty.  Being vulnerable, shows your human side, and that it’s not just about being right, or the smartest person in the room, it’s about leading people to a solution, regardless of where it comes from.

In closing, true servant leaders, those who empower, listen and appreciate our unique and individual talents, personalities and contributions will not only inspire us to do what we must do to maintain our positions, but will also inspire us to do what we want to do for the success of the team and the organization.  Isn’t this what we as leaders driving high performing organizations should be aspiring too?