Three Servant Leadership “C’s”: Part II

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In part I, we introduced three questions followers should answer about their leaders: Do you care about me? Do I trust you? Can you help me? “Yes” answers mean the leader has compassion, character and competence — three keys to succeeding with servant leadership. Now, here are some tips to help get those “yesses.”

If you care about me, what does that look like in our everyday work life?

When we think about caring for those we lead, we often think of acknowledgement, such as praising for a job well done or asking questions beyond the workplace like, “How is your family doing?” But how do we take it a step further?

  • Find out what motivates your employees.

    • Ask them what really excites them about their work or the company.

  • Inspire accountability.

    • Communicate your desire for a team that accepts responsibility for its actions.

    • Discourage finger-pointing.

    • When a commitment is not met, approach with a non-anxious presence, help employees understand their value to the project and the effect when they don’t follow through. Work together to find a solution.

  • Be very clear about expectations in the team.

    • What are department or project goals, roles and processes? Revisit them often. What are the ground rules for behavior?

  • Learn about their goals and aspirations.

    • Ask them what they would like to achieve in the company over the next five years and help them get there. Servant Leadership Institute founder Art Barter teaches we should invest in our employees, even if it leads to a new opportunity in another department or organization down the road.

If I trust you and you burn me, what will it take to rebuild that trust?

  • Inspire the courage to admit and apologize.

    • As you admit you have failed them, promise to regain their trust. Be a trustworthy person by keeping your commitments to them without fail, no matter how small they are. If for some reason this is impossible, renegotiate the commitment.

  • Show competence.

    • Demonstrate you are competent by getting good results and working with others to resolve problems.

  • Be a person of integrity.

    • Don’t talk behind others’ backs. I know we thought we nailed this one in middle school, but let’s admit it; it’s going on in the office right now!

  • Be transparent.

    • Part of being truthful is being vulnerable, so share with people that it is difficult to admit you broke trust.

  • Listen more, talk less.

    • Show you care about others by listening well, getting along with people and sharing about yourself.

If you want to help me, what are you willing to give up?

  • Ego

    • If they want to do your job someday or take on a leadership role, are you willing to help them make that plan a reality? Guide them, mentor them, share your wisdom.

    • If they’re not achieving, ask yourself, what is my part in this? Are my actions keeping them from succeeding?

  • Credit

    • Be willing to give up the credit and give it to them if appropriate.

  • Priority

    • Put their needs above your own. Give them first choice at vacation times. Maybe they could attend a development workshop this year while you cover their desk?

Which of these three questions do you need to spend more time reflecting on today? Can the people you influence honestly say you care about them, you are trustworthy and you are committed to helping them achieve their highest potential? The answers to these questions are sure to foster more interesting conversations and the benefits will be startling.

Carol Malinski is Director of Content and Curriculum at the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI). Join us to learn more about servant leadership at our 2018 Servant Leadership Conference, Feb 19 and 20 in San Diego Ca.  Find out more about the conference and servant leadership at