By Leona Holzbecher
We often associate leadership with power. When people think of leaders, they envision individuals who possess the authority to make decisions, influence others and shape the company they represent. The power of leaders is typically conferred by their job title.
It’s a common scenario in our daily work to rely on leaders to make decisions and to guide us where to go next. Nevertheless, it is generally perceived that younger generations expect a less hierarchical way of leading. Therefore, the concept of “servant leadership” is becoming more and more significant.
Servant leadership is a specific style of leadership in which leaders direct the spotlight away from themselves toward their team: Everything is done to empower the team members to help them make decisions on their own, drive topics and to be more responsible for tasks end-to-end.
One of the key skills required to bring servant leadership to life is coaching. Leaders put on the hat of a coach instead of being a manager or expert and empower their team members by asking reflective questions and listening deeply. With that, the team members are enabled to handle tasks on their own.
Power, therefore, is not an exclusive characteristic reserved solely for leaders (e.g., leaders do not necessarily need to be experts in the fields that they are leading or are the only ones who have the knowledge to make decisions). By adopting servant leadership, the power to make decisions is provided to the team members.
Question to reflect: Do you also perceive a shift from a less hierarchical way of leading to a more servant leadership style in your area? If so, how do you recognize that?
A great side effect of empowering team members is the formation of grassroots communities across organizations. These communities drive changes on self-defined topics often independent from what the leadership team is already providing. The perceived change, therefore, is driven bottom up (“from grassroots to upwards”).
The topics that grassroots communities choose are great indicators for the leadership team to identify which kind of changes employees want to see in the organization.
Question to reflect: Are you part of a community at your workplace? If so, what do you like most about it?
Communities of practice are often still seen as an add-on to the daily tasks, as it is not pre-defined in the official role description and employees voluntarily engage within communities in addition to their regular tasks. As participating in a community requires a lot of time and effort, it should not be underestimated, and employees should be supported to combine their community-based activities with their already existing workload.
Let’s empower communities within organizations by offering employees more appreciation and dedicated resources (time and money). Enable communities to speak up at the upper management level, make them visible and let them be heard.
Question to reflect: How are communities supported within your organization?
The responsibility to affect change within our organization and to make a meaningful impact rests on all of us. Change cannot only be driven by those in designated positions of power. The most successful changes are those that are tackled top-down by leaders exemplifying as role models in conjunction with communities that are driven and by fostering connections across teams.
Question to reflect: What would be a great first step to establish more communities within your organization?
Leona Holzbecher is organizational change manager for Siemens Healthineers IT. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.