In my early days as a team leader, I was living under the impression that people in my team will follow me and will do what I ask them do to because I am their boss. After a while, the reality hit me and I found out the hard way that having the word “leader” in the job title doesn’t necessarily make you one.
Whilst going down, from failure to failure, I had a talk with this senior manager who told me something that upset me at that time: “as a leader, your main role is to serve your team.” I confess that it was a shock to me because this idea contradicted every single thing I imagined about the meaning of leadership. But as my methods didn’t work as expected, I decided to give it a try and this is what I learned; these are some traits of a leader who serves the people on his team:
A leader who listens
Being able to listen is very important as a leader. Sometimes we tend to impose our opinions, make others listen to us and approve what we’re saying. A leader who serves should leave his/her ego apart, shouldn`t judge and should be open to listening. Most people want to be heard. And you know what? You will hear great ideas, great inputs, improvement recommendations. You will get to know your team members, to see how they work. What motivates them. You get to create bonds.
When you learn to listen properly to others, you find out more about their needs, about their dreams, about their career plans. You determine how you can serve them upon their feedback and this is a basic of a strong team work.
A leader who tells the truth, no matter what
When you are set at serving the others, lies don’t fit well. Being there for your team involves being transparent and standing for your truths and values.
Choose to be honest even if you`re afraid of people’s reactions. Sometimes telling lies seems the easy way. But as easy as it might be, it could lead to losing your team’s trust. At some point I had a situation on my team; I had to let go of one member of the team. Some voices advised me to keep it quiet, as the news could scare all the other members of the team and make them look for jobs elsewhere, ending up losing them all. What did I do? I told them the truth. I explained the situation and I assured them that their job is not in danger. And you know what? They stayed. And they appreciated the honesty.
I ask for my team members to be honest. To trust me. To communicate even when bad things happen and try and find solutions together. How could I ask them all these if I don`t give them the same “treatment”?
Your team members are intelligent human beings with a great power of understanding. Try them. Be transparent. Always tell the truth. In the end, truth will always come out, so why not letting it come out from you?
No matter how bad the truth is, a lie is always worse and so is hiding the truth.
A leader who protects his team
When something bad happens or things go south, the leader who serves must face the situation head on. He/she takes responsibility and doesn’t throw anyone else under the bus. Of course, if it`s a team member the one who did wrong some measures will be taken privately and of course, with kindness. In front of upper management, client or no matter what other external part, the leader assumes and protects the team, always. The team needs to know that the leader has their backs.
A leader who sees the best in people
We are all humans, with good and not so good parts. We have moments when our worst part comes to light. Because we had a bad day. Or a difficult customer to handle. Or maybe it`s just not a good day for science. Maybe we are brilliant at some tasks, but we aren’t able to respect a deadline. A great leader sees the best in people and helps them improve the aspects that need to be worked on.
A leader who creates a good work environment
When you are set to serve others, you make sure that your team has a positive work environment. This is a place where people feel safe and comfortable. We spend a lot of time at work so we cannot afford to not make it be a good place. A good work environment is not only the physical place but the atmosphere. There is no room for tensions or conflicts. Of course when people work together, conflicts can happen but if the positive grounds are set, solutions will be found in no time. One of my main objectives is to make my colleagues feel good at work. I want them to find something to enjoy at work and I like finding ways to make their days more pleasant at work. When people are happy they are motivated and we get to do great things together. The well-being of the team members is essential to build trust, respect, loyalty and motivation. The team members must know how important they are and what an important role they play in the team.
A leader who leads by example
When you promote a thing but you do the opposite, your credibility is lost. And I know from experience that when you lose trust, you lose everything.
When you ask your team to perform an action and you perform it the other way around, you lose respect. When you are in a leading position, people tend to look up to you. Don`t let them down!
A leader who trusts his team
As I said earlier we ask our teams to trust us but if the feeling is not mutual, it loses value. Trust your team. Empower them. There are a lot of things that they can make a lot better then you. Be there for them to support them when they need it, to serve them and to offer them the necessary to accomplish the mission, but let them be. Most importantly do and act!
Provide them also with information. When a problem appears put it out there and find a solution together. Don`t hide it from them, don`t assume they won`t understand or that they don`t care.
Be a leader who serves. Make the workplace a better place for your team. Be there for them. Help them learn. Support them to evolve. Get better together. Be a leader who serves!