The Bridge to Growth: How Servant Leaders Achieve Better Results

by Molly Barnes
January 20, 2020

In December, we brought together more than 100 Wisconsin Family Business Center members, sponsors, and guests once again for another edition of our speaker series. Jude Rake, founding principal of JDR Growth Partners, presented The Bridge to Growth: How Servant Leaders Achieve Better Results, And Why It Matters Now More Than Ever. Jude left us with this lasting thought: leaders need to leverage the principles of servant leadership to achieve their goals by bringing out the best in others.

Most people are disengaged with their work. Eight in ten workers believe their boss lacks vision or clear communication. So how do great business leaders fully engage their employees? They develop leaders and encourage their workers to lead. They actively coach them. Leadership happens at all levels of the organization and we are all capable of leading, it just sometimes takes more encouragement; it all comes down to mindset and attitude.

Support Your Team

Leadership starts with you and your vision for the organization. Spell it out for employees and define what success looks like by documenting leadership expectations and having detailed discussions. Employees will better understand and commit to your vision when they know your expectations. How else can you support your team?

  • Coach them and give them feedback on how they are doing.
  • Ask your employees what they want to be when they grow up and be supportive of them – make it clear you want to help get them there!
  • Make sure your supervisors and managers are talking to their team members and give them tools to help them improve too.

If you want to make leaders, you must make people better. Every great athlete has had a great coach behind them, and the same is true of great employees and bosses. Be the coach behind your high-performing team.

Constructive Contention

How can you improve your own style to get the best out of your employees?

  • Be open to your own improvement – most people think they are great at giving constructive feedback and that is rarely the case.
  • Maintain and build self-esteem with your team members and get to know each of them.
  • Encourage diversity of style, behavior, and thinking throughout your team and encourage debate in conversations.
  • Seek the contrary and ask better questions.

If you find certain team members get talked over or their ideas get shut down before they can finish, talk to them individually to get their perspective. Showing each team member you value their perspective will encourage them to speak up and stand up for themselves in the future.

Finally, listen to learn. Hear what your team is saying and seek out what is not being said. What needs to be communicated? This is especially important in family businesses. It can be easy to talk over your children or assume you know where people are coming from and ignoring their perspective, so stop and listen to really learn what they are saying. Everyone wants to contribute, and you will find value in every perspective.

Communicate to Change

It is often said people fear change; this is not entirely true. What people fear is loss. Loss of control, comfort, certainty, status or competency to name a few. The more you communicate as well as recognize (and manage) the various sources of resistance to change the better chance you have to build trust and engagement among your people. People like knowing you believe in them. Changes can be scary so connect the dots for them and give them context for changes. They will feel supported and will see the new path in a clearer light.

A good athlete cannot overcome having a bad coach – no one can succeed alone. If you want to be a great leader for your business and build leaders out of all of your employees, you must support them, guide them, and bring out the best in them. Where will you engage first? Don’t forget to register for our next Speaker Series event on Thursday, January 30, 2020, Leading with Trust: Becoming the Leader Your People Deserve.