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:
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.