In our recent edition of Demystifying IT, we spoke with Senior Project Manager, Mark Pinder, who highlighted the importance of finding Agile Project Managers who display the qualities of servant leadership. Following on from his insights, the notion of putting your ‘servants’ (even if we prefer to call them team members!) first, stuck with us.
There is no one “right” way to lead your team, but there are question marks around whether traditional styles of leadership are agile enough to cope with the demands of the fast changing IT industry. Autocratic ‘command-and-control’ leadership methods can leave employees feeling isolated and dispensable. Democratic forms of leadership where the majority rules can create divides within your team. This has led to traditional leadership styles becoming obsolete, and IT leaders are now looking to other ways of providing great leadership to their teams.
Servant leadership is built around putting the needs of the team ahead of the needs of the leader. It serves each individual employee, which allows Managers to take a more personalised approach to management. In return, this direction offers stronger loyalty, a wider involvement and increased productivity from your team.
These advantages make servant leadership a great fit for combating important problems that the IT industry often faces, such as pressure from quickly resolving service outages or product instability issues. The popularity of servant leadership is on the rise, as it has started to appear in companies like SAS, Starbucks and UPS. So how you can implement it into your own leadership style?
Intently listening to your employees is crucial to being a servant leader. Comprehending what is and isn’t being said can help you better identify the concerns and needs of your team. Speaking your employee’s language can allow you to read, study and understand each team member better and form a stronger connection with them.
These strong connections can create a mutual respect between you and your team. With an industry as fast-paced and dynamic as IT, being able to persuade your team to take ownership of crucial work is important. Bringing them around to understanding why one task takes priority over others can help achieve this. By using persuasion over coercion, the potential conflict that other leadership styles may create can often be avoided.
Giving and gaining feedback is important for any leader. Use meaningful ways, like a suggestion box or open door policy, to further connect with your team and understand how you can improve your communication methods. When you provide them with feedback, correcting mistakes and setting people on the right path is important, but don’t focus on trying to catch people doing things wrong. Praise people doing things right as well, and show your appreciation for a job well done.
The IT industry can often face pressure to urgently resolve major service outages and instability issues. This poses a challenge for leaders when balancing a company’s expectations and their team’s respect. Other leadership styles put objectives and results above the needs of the employees, and hence can have a more skewed review of what’s predicted and what’s achievable. Part of being a servant leader, however, is to take a more realistic and sensible approach. When these types of events occur, make sure you don’t sacrifice the needs of your team over the goals of the business by pushing back when necessary. Promote a relaxed, productive and trusting work environment by being realistic over the changes that you may need to make, whether it’s to your business goals, your team or your own leadership style.
To be a servant leader, the development of others should be a key principle of your leadership strategy. IT, as an industry, contains a vast number of avenues for personal development. In order to capitalise on them, act as a mentor to guide your employees towards learning vital skills. For this to work, transfer authority to your employees and allow them to govern their own development. Tailoring a personal development plan to cater to each individual’s needs will allow you to monitor their progress from a distance.
The benefits of mentoring your employees will be experienced by all. As a leader, you can benefit from shaping a team that meets the needs of everyone in it, whilst still hitting KPIs. The team will benefit from being led in a way that fosters their development, whilst allowing them to work efficiently and feel appreciated. The employer will benefit from having its employees engage with the company’s cultures and values as they develop. The environment this creates will help shape better leaders for the future which provides a built in succession plan for the business.
Servant leadership encompasses the concept of putting the needs of your employees at the forefront of everything you do, whilst guiding them towards professional and personal success. To do this, servant leaders create and maintain an empowering and trusting workplace environment through collating great business ethics and teamwork. Whether servant leadership will work for you as a leadership style however, will depend on the type of person you are and the culture of the company you work for.
If you’re looking for candidates who display the above values, or you yourself are a servant leader looking for a role that will foster your leadership style, then get in touch with a specialist IT Recruiter today.