Want to Be a More Supportive Leader? Here’s How

By Harvard Business Review
June 25, 2018

Adopt the humble mindset of a “servant leader,” who can help others feel purposeful, motivated and energized so they can bring their best selves to work.


As a leader, you are merely overhead unless you’re bringing out the best in your employees. Unfortunately, many leaders lose sight of this.

Top-down leadership has become outdated and counterproductive. Power can cause leaders to become overly obsessed with outcomes and control, and, therefore, treat their employees as means to an end.

The best way to correct course is to adopt the humble mindset of a “servant leader.”

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Servant leaders view their key role as serving employees as they explore and grow, providing tangible and emotional support. They have the humility, courage and insight to admit they can benefit from the expertise of others who have less power and actively seek their ideas and contributions.

Here’s how to practice being a servant leader.

Ask how you can help employees do their own jobs better — then listen: Employees who do the actual work of your organization often know better than you how to do a great job. Respecting their ideas, and motivating them to try new approaches to improve work, encourages employees to bring more of themselves to work.

Create low-risk spaces for employees to think of new ideas: Sometimes the best way for leaders to serve employees — and their organization — is to create a low-risk space for employees to experiment with their ideas. By doing so, leaders encourage employees to push on the boundaries of what they already know.

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Be humble: When leaders are humble, show respect and ask how they can serve employees as they improve the organization, the outcomes can be outstanding. And, perhaps even more important, servant leaders get to act like better human beings. 

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Leadership

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