Analysis of Servant Leadership Practice
As I completed the Seven Habits profile I found a trend indicative of servant leadership style, scoring very high in items such as keeping the concerns and needs of others in mind, caring about the success of others, being sensitive to the feelings of others, seeking to understand others viewpoints, and valuing the insights of others.
The first category, the “Emotional Bank Account”, is one of the foundational habits, which deals with building trust in a relationship. The two areas I scored highest were showing kindness and consideration, and keeping promises and honoring commitments. Leading with kindness and consideration is about putting others’ needs first. In this leadership (and life) approach, it is critical to let others know that I am supportive and can be trusted to honor commitments by doing what I say I will do. Covey uses the metaphor of the “Bank Account” because we must make constant deposits of trust into our relationships (Covey, 1989). Trust comes in the form of keeping commitments, showing kindnesses, and understanding the other person (or trying to). As I think of the most effective bosses I have had in my life, I realize that they all excelled at creating trust relationships.
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The second category deals with “Life Balance”. I excel at multitasking, balancing all aspects of my life from work, to family and friends, to activities, and now school. When I had to deal with a very stressful health issue, I learned how to prioritize and how to let some things go while attending to what was most important. Now I work hard, but never to the point of burnout. It is important to care about the needs of others but to balance that with personal needs as well. In my relationships, balance comes from shared trust and respect.
The third category, “Begin With the End in Mind” is about knowing what I want to accomplish in life and working toward that goal. It is important to visualize who I am and what I want in life so that I have a blueprint to follow (Covey, 1989). I scored high in this area because I have spent the last 10 years defining a vision for my life. At first, I was just moving forward without an end goal in mind. Now I know what I want to accomplish and every move has that goal in mind.
The fourth category “Think Win-Win”, is how I function on a daily basis. My focus is on helping others achieve their goals. If I help others succeed, I have done a good job and it is a win-win. Covey describes it as a “frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit” (Covey, 1989). I think this is a perfect strategy for all relationships and is most productive for team interactions.
The fifth category “Seek First to Understand”, is about communication and the idea of being sensitive to others’ feelings, and trying to see things from their point of view. It takes a lot of work to truly focus on another person’s words, thoughts and feelings without thinking about yourself or your own response first (Covey, 1989). I learned this lesson through some very tough times and some pretty incredible people who practiced this impeccably. I vowed to learn from their example and pay it forward. I listened and learned from the people in my life that exemplified this habit, the people that showed me kindness and understanding when I needed it the most. I now try to approach every relationship as if the other person is in need of understanding because frankly, we have no idea what a person is going through or dealing with in their daily life. A little compassion can make a huge difference for anyone.
The sixth category “Synergize” is one of my favorites. I love seeking new and different solutions to problems and am creative in how I look at every problem through collaboration rather than a do-it-myself attitude. I approach each interaction with an openness to learn something new, or understand a different viewpoint. By respectfully seeking to understand each individuals underlying needs and interests, I find solutions that not only satisfy both, but that are better than either of us individually could come up with (Covey, 2003).
Evaluate your leadership practices using a scholarly leadership theory
I got my Bachelor’s degree in psychology because I wanted to gain a strong understanding of people, all types of people. I realized, after having been through some really difficult times, that everybody is not “just like me.” Most people approach relationships as if everyone is just like them in the way they think, believe, and act (CITE this). But people are unique individuals who think differently, have different backgrounds and foundational beliefs, and have had different experiences. I decided I wanted to help people, especially those that had been through difficult times like me, but in order to do that, in order to reach that goal and do it well, I needed to understand all types of people, and what makes them do, say, or think a certain way. I wanted to learn how to help people by understanding all the complexities that make us all who we are. That is when I started practicing servant leadership.
The primary motivation of servant leadership is a desire to serve another’s highest priority needs and not one of self-interest (Greenleaf, 2002). This is the reason I chose to work in education, the reason I chose to teach, and the reason I started a side business with a goal of motivating and inspiring others to find their voice. I work in education so I can give back to the organization that was there for me when I needed a new beginning. I teach adult students how to be successful so they can achieve the life they want; and I started my side business to offer people tools for personal self-expression, healing, and a way to realize goals, visions, and dreams. I want to inspire people and help them find happiness.
I have had the servant leadership attitude my whole life, always wanting to help others by leading. I always felt that I had something to offer, an aptitude for seeing a need and desire to help. As a teenager I presented an idea for a teen club at my church. I got sponsorship, interested participants, and ran for president (though I came in second). I was disappointed at first since the club was my idea after all, but ultimately celebrated the outcome having inspired a group of young people to step up and take ownership of a shared vision (Russell & Stone, 2002). Later in life I became PTA President hoping to help the organization find a new focus to consider what was in all the children’s best interest rather than just the parents.
In my current job I constantly look for ways to make things better whether for the organization, an individual, a department, or a product (Autry, 2001). My side business is all about servant leadership and teaching people how to find their voice, and themselves (Spears, 2004). I certainly am not perfect in the servant leadership competencies, but they are the principles I live by and my ultimate goal in life and for the future of my business.
Evaluate at least three strengths you demonstrate as a leader
Servant leaders have genuine concern for their followers putting them first and inspiring them to take on responsibilities and personal growth (Russell & Stone, 2002). My first servant leadership strength is “Vision”, to see and value people (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018).
I see this attribute in my work at the College. As a User Experience Architect, I use my past experiences as a student, faculty, and staff member to connect with team members and solve problems. I offer a vision of what is best for the organization, or what will serve our students’ best and work to make it a shared vision. I try to create a collaborative environment so the other team members feel that their voice is being heard (Covey, 2003). I listen to their needs and work collaboratively to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs and serves the organizational mission at the same time. I am principle-centered and love sharing recognition and power. Feelings of inherent self-worth, and open communication built on caring and consideration create win-win solutions (Covey, 2003).
My second servant leadership strength is “Compassionate Encourager” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018). This comes through primarily in my side business where I offer workshops using visual images to help people acknowledge and release pain, confusion, depression, stress, and anything that is holding them back from achieving their dreams. I share my personal story, letting participants know they are not alone, giving them something to relate to. I then use my listening skills so that I can understand their story and offer compassion and encouragement as I coach them through the process of letting go of painful, difficult, or confusing things and acknowledging and embracing positive, hopeful things. Each workshop participant should walk away with something positive to focus on, a vision of hope.
My third strength is “Appreciation of others”. I truly appreciate, value, encourage, and care for the people I am working with (Autry, 2001). I find joy in shared successes and in making others look good and succeed. My focus is always on what is best for the project or the team and not what will benefit me. According to Autry (2001), “leadership is not about controlling people; it’s about caring for people and being a useful resource for people”. This pretty much describes my work focus and mindset. True power comes from gaining trust and support of the people you are leading (Autry, 2001).
Evaluate at least three weaknesses you demonstrate as a leader
One of my biggest weaknesses is self-doubt in my ability to be respected as a leader. Perhaps I am more in the servant mode and have not yet fully developed into a leadership mode (Spears, 2004). I am not fully comfortable in my ability to lead and have not entirely embraced my capacity to help people heal from emotional hurts. I sometimes doubt whether people will care about what I have to say, or believe that I am knowledgeable. I second-guess myself thinking my ideas might be wrong when a group has differing opinions. I need to build my self-confidence. In order to do this, I will have to be willing to fail or be okay with being wrong sometimes. If I never learn to speak up, I will never truly become a leader.
My second weakness is a desire to be liked. I know that a good leader needs to be concerned with serving others and not their own self-interest, but I catch myself wondering if the people on my team like me. I find this creeping in especially when unpopular decisions need to be made. It can be difficult to get everyone on board when there are differing ideas. At the end of the day, not everybody is going to “like” me, and I need to just be okay with that. If I have done my job well, I should be respected, or appreciated; but liked is truly unnecessary.
My third weakness is spreading myself too thin. I have a lot of things going on in my life and although I seem to be balancing everything pretty well, I have to make sacrifices to get everything done. I am not able to put as much into my side business to make it profitable because of the time constraints. I have had to cut back on the number of workshops I offer and my social media marketing is unfocused and very sporadic. I work full time at the College but while I am there, I have school on my mind as well as the side business. School is a recent addition to my time and I am working hard to give it the proper amount of attention without sacrificing the things in my personal life that I enjoy. I am currently still able to make at least one yoga class a week (although I was attending three a week in the past), and I still find time to go out with my friends occasionally. School has really just replaced my television downtime so there is not a huge loss there. I will survive without HGTV for a while. In addition to these three major things in my life, there is still basic life to attend to and for now, all the balls are still in the air.
Three theory-based changes that you could make to maximize your success
The first change I need to make is to improve my listening. Servant leaders are excellent listeners, and although I strive to listen intently, I do find myself thinking about my response instead of listening attentively with a true desire to understand. It is important to listen to co-workers, family members, and clients to understand their needs, challenges, and talents. Reflecting on what is said, and unsaid, is critical to being a competent servant leader (Spears, 2004). I need to ask more questions, giving others an opportunity to tell their stories (Boone & Makhani, 2012). I need to become a better listener in order to give voice and validate others feelings.
The second change I need to make is to let go of my self-doubt and vocalize my opinions and perspectives, so that I am able to influence or persuade individuals toward a specific point of view. This may well be the most important element of effective leadership (Russell & Stone, 2002). Within groups I tend to make so much room for others’ opinions and ideas that I don’t share my own perspective, sometimes doubting the validity of my own ideas. I need to articulate my point of view while creating a safe space for others to do the same, and not be afraid to push back when things are getting off track. I need to make sure that my focus on people and relationships does not conflict with the overarching strategic vision. Persuasion requires patience, persistence, and (the part I am sometimes lacking), confidence (Heyler & Martin, 2018). If I can work on my confidence, I will become a much more effective leader.
The third change I could make to maximize my success is “holding others accountable”. My desire to support others can make it hard to hold a firm line when it comes to meeting deadlines and expectations. I need remember that servant leadership is also about giving direction (Dierendonck & Nuijten, 2011). Accountability ensures teams and individuals understand what is expected of them and take responsibility for the outcomes which benefits everyone involved as well as the organization (Dierendonck & Nuijten, 2011).
Discuss two short-term SMART goals that will help improve your leadership practice
Goal 1: Alleviate Self-doubt
In order to overcome my weakness of self-doubt I need to learn how to own my strengths. Beginning next week, I will assert myself in a leadership role on the current portal design project by using my “Synergize” strength of approaching interactions with an openness to learn something new rather than focusing on what I don’t know. I will engage with the project team weekly to discuss specific project tasks and strategies for achieving them. I will coordinate with the project manager to ensure the team goals align with the project timeline. I will research, learn, and take the project one step at a time with confidence in my ability. This will be ongoing until the portal goes live by September 2019.
Goal 2: Create life balance
I will establish a work-school-business-life balance by creating a daily schedule to incorporate time for schoolwork, growing my business, and personal time, allowing me to have healthy work-school-business-life balance. I will prioritize and chart all the activities that are required and make sure there is room for miscellaneous items. I can use the questions answered in the WGU Orientation as a guide. I will accomplish this in the next 90 days.
A2di. Discuss at least two specific actions you will take to reach each of the SMART goals
Goal: Alleviate Self-doubt
My first action will be to create a project website in our intranet for sharing project information. My second action will be to schedule weekly standup meetings to discuss the project with the team. The third action will be to outline the project as identified in the weekly team meetings and create a task list and an issue tracker on the website. I will also update the website as needed to reflect the project status.
Goal: Create life balance
My first action will be to create a calendar that color-codes the different areas of my life to visually organize my time. A second action will be to schedule short (1-3 hour) bursts of zero distraction work time with a specific task completion in mind. My third action will be to schedule downtime and use it to detach from work, school, and business, such as taking at least two 30-minute walks every week. I will also keep up with my current yoga classes.
Servant leadership encompasses five ways of being: to be authentic, vulnerable, accepting, present, and useful (Autry, 2001). For me, authenticity is the most important aspect for a leader. An authentic leader is someone you can trust to be in it for the right reasons. Authentic leaders approach every project with truth, honesty, and self-awareness. An authentic leader understands their strengths and weaknesses, recognizing how decisions impact others (Dierendonck & Nuijten, 2011).
Because my impulse is to focus on the accomplishments of the team and its individual members, people may have trouble seeing what I stand for. Moving forward I need to seek opportunities to demonstrate my unique talents to important stakeholders by volunteering to lead initiatives I’m passionate about that also resonate with my need to serve others. I need to build on what I have discovered through writing this paper, and work on my servant leadership skills. I feel that identifying my strengths and weaknesses will support my leadership growth moving forward.