You may have heard of servant leadership. It’s the notion that people will follow someone who chooses to serve them.
Throughout human history and in present times, the role of servant has been seen as an inferior role of obligation. Naturally, a person prefers to be the one who is served. Certainly, we expect that a leader will be one who is served by others.
So how could servant leadership be of any value? Because the leader, who has the freedom to be strictly self-serving, chooses to serve those who are below him or her in the chain of command (or, if not within one’s chain, below him or her in the organizational structure).
What a positive impression it makes on team members to see the boss choose to dirty his or her hands when needed, or to make any type of sacrifice for for a team member or for the team.
Many leaders don’t do this at all. Others actually go so far with it that they create an image of a leader desperate for the approval of those below. It can be a difficult balancing act. However, when done well, the servant leader is respected and appreciated by team members, who then feel good about following this leader wherever he or she may lead.
This service to others, a way of expressing how much you appreciate and value them, is a way of building your referent power. If you haven’t been providing observable, direct service to your team members, start the new year with a plan of how you will do it—and let me know how it goes.