When those unfamiliar with the practice of Servant Leadership try to communicate what they believe it is, many interesting and incorrect ideas are expressed. I have personally heard others refer to Servant Leadership as a weak leadership style where the team members get the chance to walk all over their leaders. My personal favorite incorrect description of Servant Leadership is that it is some kind of wacky cult where leaders convince their team that they are really happy all of the time, and everyone holds hands and sings songs. Yes, that is what we do…stand over our team members sending subliminal messages telling them to be happy and contented in their positions! If only it was that easy!
Servant Leadership is based upon the idea of serving one another, regardless of title or position. Accountability is a building block to the success of a servant-run organization. Unfortunately, people have the perception that a servant leader is someone who bends over backwards for their team members and the team pretty much does whatever they want. This idea is only partially correct. A true servant leader will go to great lengths to care for their team, however, this does not absolve the team from their responsibilities to the organization. For example, if you are hired by an organization to deliver pizzas, you cannot decide one day that you do not feel like doing your job, so your leader needs to, as they are there to serve you.
Accountability is a two-way street – just as a leader holds their team members accountable for their responsibilities, team members should hold their leaders accountable as well. If you preach that you clear roadblocks for your team members to successfully do their jobs, then you better ensure you are doing this. If team members are expected to live the organizational culture and you hold them accountable for it, then you also need to demonstrate that you are accountable for living the same culture.
Organizational culture – what is it and why has it become so important in the landscape of corporate America?
Where does an organization’s culture come from? Is it just a set of rules written by a committee and everyone is expected to blindly follow them? Is an organization’s culture a slogan or thought that a CEO just thinks up on the fly and insists everyone admire his or her brilliance? Does culture amount to the way in which everyone within an organization behaves or interacts with one another? These questions could go on and on, as there are probably as many interpretations of organizational culture out there.
I am always interested in hearing what people think about culture within the organization that employs them. Some believe it is the best thing out there, others believe it stinks. In reality, how many people actually understand the basics of your organization’s culture and could communicate them to someone? I have spoken with people throughout the years about the culture within their organizations, and to be honest, I was surprised at the responses. Many could not articulate a concise idea of what their organization stood for. They got hung up on the idea that organizational culture was how leadership treated them. While that is an important part of an organization’s culture, it is not the only thing. An organizational culture extends past the leader-team member relationship to also encompass an overall attitude about how you do business. Are you an organization that likes to have fun while working, are you passionate about making the world a better place, are you completely possessed with providing excellent service to your customers? These are all examples of what an organization’s culture might look like. Do we allow our team members to understand how our organization’s culture was created and why it is significant to our success?
How often do we communicate this information with our team members? Is organizational culture something we talk about during new team member orientation, and then promptly forget about it, leaving it on the shelf along with the new team member handbook? A piece of paper on a bulletin board in the team member break room doesn’t cut it. Organizational culture is not something that can be stuck up on the wall if you expect people to live it. If you expect your organization to have a strong culture, it needs to become part of your everyday thoughts and actions. If you personify the culture of your organization, then others will follow.