7 steps to practicing servant leadership

By Jenny Jackson, EdD, MBA, CPMSM, CPCS, executive director and CEO of Owensboro Community Health Network in Owensboro, Kentucky

Servant leadership is about putting people first. When employees are safe and happy, the work goes smoother, customers are treated better, and the organization develops a stronger foundation of corporate citizenship.

A servant leader makes a conscious daily effort to ensure the needs of employees are met, a practice that is quite the opposite of traditional leadership hierarchies.

Whether you are a new leader, or just looking for ways to continually learn and grow, here are seven steps to practicing servant leadership:

  1. Focus on your team and ask yourself, “How can I help them today?” Can you make the work easier, or replace a broken chair, or allow flexibility so they may leave to pick up a sick child from school?
  2. Create an open and trusting environment. This environment is created when there is open communication on both sides. Share as much as you can and truly listen when your employees share with you.
  3. Thank your employees at every opportunity. In person, via email, or just a sticky note on their desk is great. Let them know that they are appreciated!
  4. Treat every team member with dignity and respect. We are all human, and that does not change when our feet cross the workplace threshold. Remember the golden rule.
  5. Approach every day and every problem as a team. We each have a unique perspective of looking at things, and we are all in this together.
  6. Don’t expect to know everything, don’t pretend to know everything, and don’t feel bad that you don’t know everything!
  7. Know that you will make mistakes. Know that your team will make mistakes. We all do, but it is how we handle those mistakes and grow from them that matters.