By Nan Nan Liu-Maffetone | Strong Female Leaders | Reading Time: Five Minutes
The first step in adopting a servant leadership style is to embrace the idea that your team members work for themselves and have the choice to leave anytime they want. Your job as a leader, then, is to ensure that team members feel valued, appreciated and sufficiently challenged, so that they can maximize productivity and feel accomplished, while they work for the same organization as you do. As a servant leader, your job is to fulfill your team's needs and wants. In other words: the larger your teams are, the more people you must prioritize before yourself. Shedding the traditional top-down mindset might be hard at first, if that is all you have been exposed to, but be open-minded. If you are ready to start the new servant leadership journey and become the type of leader that others both trust and respect, then scroll down to learn about important servant leadership activities.

1. Be the newbie.
Senority does not mean that you know it all. In fact, the more senior you are, the larger the disconnect between you and the teams that produce actual value. A smart leader knows his or her limits, including how much there is to learn. If you want to serve your teams well, pretent that you are new to the organization and be ready to learn, even if the learning includes getting your hands dirty.
Also remember to be genuine. If you ask questions or seek feedback with alterior motives such as conducting temperature checks, guiding conversations to flaunt your own knowledge and testing team members, please stop. Knowledge professionals see through fakeness rightaway. If you lose their trust, you will never get it back.
2. Add the question "how can I help you" in front of every request to the team.
A go-getter like yourself always does her best and expects the same from everyone else. However, your passion may come off as demanding or even unreasonable if you do it without considering others' needs. Next time you make a request to the team, put the question "how can I help you" in front of it. For example, instead of telling your team to "complete objectives 5 and 6 by quarter end," ask "how can I help you complete objectives 5 and 6 by quarter end?" This way, you are not barking orders, you are helping a cause. In turn, instead of seeing you as just a manager who is executing a set of tasks, your team will see you as an inspirational leader who is earning respect.
3. Take action.
Making big bold promises breeds skepticism when you don't take the actions that make them come true. As a leader, your words should be gold, and if you promise to serve your team, then you better serve them well. Take small but forward-moving actions such as meeting with every team member to gain an insight to his or her daily struggles, giving kudos to deserving team members, and take others' ideas seriously to truly honor innovation.
A goal without action is just a day dream. It's frail, fruitless and a waste of time. When you take action, no matter how small the step, you move closer to the end goal and build trust along the way.

4. Create a safe space.
People's ideas and opinions are valuable. The fact that they even expose them to you means that they respect you as both a professional and a person. Of course you might not agree with everything they say, but at least give them a safe and non-judgemental place in which they can freely express their thoughts. People want to be heard, and it is up to you, the leader, to create an environment that allows them to speak freely.
5. Always operate in the "servant mode."
As capable, self-managing and highly educated as today's knowledge professionals are, they still need a dedicated resource to help facilitate daily activities, remove impediments and fulfill emotional needs.
Should you stop asking for more from the team? Of course not. Deadlines, financial goals and other profit-related essentials are as concrete and real as before. The difference is to always make the ask in a "servant mode." Prioritize team members' needs like interests, skill sets and career development in paralell with organizational priorities. For example, if you need to request for overtime to achieve a specific deadline from a team member who is a young parent, allow a few days of personal time off after the project is completed. Everyone is motivate by something. It is your job to find out what it is and fulfill both it, and what the organization needs.
As a servant leader of knowledge professionals, you can no longer simply carry out tasks and request for outcomes. You have to think on a higher level and operate more strategicly, so that both the organization and its valuable talents walk away in a win-win situation.
In every way, servant leaders are strategic negociators, and being able to operate in a "servant mode" is a prized skill.
Parting Thoughts
As a servant leader, you manage the relationship between your team and the organization. When the relationship becomes toxic, it is up to you to turn the ship around. It is up to you to show compassion, do the honest thing, convey bad news, facilitate discussions and problem solving, listen and take action, empower individuals, honor people's ideas, and build trust. [ End of Article ]

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