Servant Leadership: Placing Empowerment before Power

Greg Shamie
Greg Shamie
Team Work on the Mechanism of Metal Cogwheels.-1

Leadership can be such a measureless word. How do we actually know when we are being a leader? What does it mean to truly lead people? I find myself continually asking these questions as I work on deepening my own leadership and the way I teach others to step into their leadership.

I was introduced to the concept of servant leadership after reading, The Servant. It made me realize that leadership is about serving those you lead. The servant leadership approach puts the focus on empowerment versus power. It explores the difference between power and authority that Mr. Hunter describes as the key in this approach. One may be in a position of power but lack the authority of the people they are leading. He explains power as the ability to force or coerce someone to do your will, where authority is the skill of getting people to go along with you because of your personal influence. Power can be bought and sold, given and taken away. Authority is about who you are as a person: it’s about your character and integrity and the relationships you create.

My first significant experience with a servant leader in the workplace was with Erika Petrelli, my supervisor. Rather than trying to micro-manage me, she set me free and allowed me to bring my passions to my work. She was clear and firm with what she needed to happen but was also extremely flexible. She created a foundation of trust by working continuously to build our relationship. Her intentions and her actions proved aligned. She masterfully checked in with me and asking questions that helped her identify my needs. She would do her best to remove any obstacles from my path so that I could succeed at what I was trying to accomplish.

It seemed like Erika’s ultimate intention was for me to succeed at accomplishing my goals which, of course, helped us meet our department and company goals. She willingly to sacrificed herself for me, especially in situations of need.

For me, true leadership is about serving those that you lead—approaching your job with “What can I do for you?” mindset rather than “What can you do for me?”

Here is how I broke down the four elements of servant leadership:

  1. Align your actions and behaviors with your intentions.
  2. Identify and meet the legitimate needs of those you lead.
  3. When we lead, we are being called to serve and sacrifice.
  4. We serve and sacrifice to build authority and influence.

The result? Individuals feel motivated, empowered, engaged, and productive.

What more could you want?

How do you bring out the best in those you lead? How do you practice servant leadership? Tell me in the comments below, or 

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"Servant Leadership: Placing Empowerment before Power", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2016

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Greg Shamie

By Greg Shamie

Greg Shamie is the Director of Staff Development at The Leadership Program, having been with the company for over 18 years. An internationally recognized facilitator, keynote speaker, and strategic coach, Greg’s focus is to inspire individuals to go beyond what they believe is possible. He loves the concept of Leadership no matter what a person’s role and is committed to helping people expand their perspectives on how to set and achieve their goals. He has presented internationally on such topics such as, “Leading By Example”, “Finding the Leader Within”, "Perseverance and the Power of Failure”, “Delivering Dynamic and Compelling Presentations”, and many more. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV) in New York City. Greg received his Masters in Educational Theatre from NYU. His professional mantra is ‘Connecting people and performance to purpose’.