Servant Leadership: Who Crosses First?

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At Envoy we believe it is possible to invest in good owner managed businesses and achieve growth journeys to industry leading platforms within 5-7 years.

Whilst financial capital is an important part of this, we find that the biggest constraint is always the human stuff. We have learned that changing mindsets and behaviours to cross multiple ‘chasm-moments’ is the formula for winning and achieving these accelerated growth strategies. 

We are active in teaching the concept of ‘servant leadership’, which is best visualised through an inverted organisation structure.

Typical Leadership Culture
Servant Leadership Culture

Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one (or a few) at the “top of the pyramid”. Servant leadership shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. 

Like peeling an onion, the key is to work through the layers of the organisation and help each layer to find the voice of the people who work for them. This is never easy, and I commend any organisation that manages to implement the philosophy right to the shop floor. Where we have been lucky enough to realise this, the results are phenomenal.

As I sat with 18 of my colleagues yesterday, overlooking the amazing Forth bridges, I am reminded of advice we give those onion layers when we are trying to invert organisations to live upside down. Too often people in senior positions believe their employees should cross the bridge to meet their needs. They get frustrated when the employees don’t react to their instructions and demands. They accuse them of “not being competent enough” to cross over. They build barriers through governance to mitigate their perception of risk. 

The role of a leader in a servant-led organisation is to cross the bridge to meet the employee at their side. 

To simplify the request into a language the employee understands. 

To build confidence in the employee.

To walk them back across – teaching if the opportunity presents. 

Help the hidden layers find their voice then watch your business multiply and the best talent in your market queue up outside the door.

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