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Servant Leaders Focus on Building Employee Loyalty


The way managers approach their job tends to evolve over time. The archetypal manager 100 years ago was a no-nonsense authority figure who acted as overseer, making sure employees were hard at work and not goofing off.

By the 1960s, ideas about management became more liberal and democratic. Managers were more likely to elicit employees’ opinions about the work and seek a consensus. At its extreme, this type of manager took a hands-off role, deliberately abstaining from interfering in how employees worked.

Today you can still find both of these types of managers in the workplace – and all variations thereof. However, a new concept of best management practices now predominates and is supported by research findings. The idea, first articulated by Robert K. Greenleaf, is that the best managers strive to serve their employees, and hence it has been called servant leadership.

Servant leaders are not motivated by wielding power over people. Rather, they are selfless in a manner similar to the best elected officials or civil servants. They are concerned with the needs of their employees and are dedicated to solving employees’ problems, removing their work-related obstacles, getting them the resources they need, and promoting their personal and professional development.

These leaders do this because they believe that fulfilled, self-actualized, loyal employees will do their best for the company.

Blueprint for Servant Leaders

To translate this philosophy into practice, here are some suggestions for managers:

  • First, take an interest in your employees as individuals. Spend some time one-to-one getting to know each of them and keeping up with the developments in their lives. Ask them about their career goals so that you can be on the lookout for special projects or training opportunities that might appeal to them. Encourage employees to take risks and rise to challenges that you think they are capable of and will further their careers.
  • Don’t try to hold onto your best employees if it is in their best interest to make a career change. Rather, view that as a natural progression. Yes, their loss will be felt, but it will open an opportunity for a more junior employee. Word will get out that people on your team get ahead and that you help them to do so.
  • Share as much information as possible with employees, as early as possible. This will earn you their trust and significantly cut down on the rumor mill. One of your main functions as a manager is to secure for your employees the resources they need to do their jobs, and to remove the obstacles that prevent them from doing so. This means that you have to stay in frequent communication with them to find out what they need from you – a laid-back attitude on your part won’t work.
  • Recognize and praise employees often for a job well done. When you have to give negative feedback, focus more on desired improvements than on their faults.

And, perhaps most important of all, do your best to set an example of how you want your employees to comport themselves. What you do is more important than what you say.

Contact VonLehman’s Human Resources Consulting Group at 800.887.0437 for guidance related to this topic.

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