Servant Leadership

We have moved from the command and control project manager approach of delivering software to a more coaching role. Here are a few guiding principles that are moving us in this direction:

  • People generally want to do a good job. With proper guidance, support and clear direction a team will be successful.
  • When a team believes in what they are doing, they will be more productive.
  • A leader's job is to serve the team, not tell them what to do. The expert team knows what is best.
  • A leader asks proper, sometimes difficult questions of the team and should do so with respect.
  • It is acknowledged that an independent observer will notice things that individuals involved in day to day interactions may not notice.
  • The servant leader is not the expert, they are the facilitator of experts.
  • The team has the expertise and with the proper guidance will excel.

It can be challenging to move from a typical project manager role to that of a servant leader. A typical project manager "knows" things the team does not know and is frustrated when things do not go as planned. He knows that if he were doing the work, it would be different.

The reality is, the team is comprised if individuals each at different places in personal, professional and emotional development. The team is comprised of individuals who are experts but are not "like" the project manager wishes they would be. The challenge for the Servant Leader is understanding where each team member is in their growth development and work with them to make them successful based on where they are, not where we wished they would be.

Sometimes things do not work out. If a team member is truly not working out, it is best for the team and the individual to end the relationship.

A servant leader must use communication and negotiation skills to be a facilitator, teacher and problem solver in an indirect manner. The approach of “Be a Flashlight” is appropriate here. Ask probing questions and facilitate conversation.

A key skill is to become comfortable with silence. Sometimes when probing questions are asked, an immediate answer is not apparent. Be comfortable with the silence a discussion will eventually occur. The team will figure it out. They do not need you to supply the answer. They may only need you to facilitate the conversation for the answer.

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