When I first started working in Washington, DC, I had an extraordinary experience that would shape my view of leadership and leading teams for the rest of my life.
I worked with a woman who taught me about servant leadership.
Sue Ward, a fierce advocate for civil and human rights policy related to aging elders, and Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, modeled servant leadership in every interaction and every relationship during her life. Whether it was supporting the Board and Executives, working with stakeholders, or engaging with an individual on the street; my boss, mentor, and friend Sue participated in every conversation in the same way — she assessed what she could do to elevate that one person and help them become more informed in order to make sound decisions.
I remember asking her why it was important to be a ‘servant leader,’ and she said simply, “Teams and individuals both need to be heard and respected. And to lead effectively, people must trust you. If you are a servant leader, you are demonstrating that you support them in what matters to them personally and how they want to move forward, hopefully as a community.”
Sue was an exceptional woman in so many ways, and her style of leadership did not go unnoticed. She was beloved by peers, a sought-after mentor by staff, and a well-respected advisor to many, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of MD.
Recently, I had an opportunity to meet Leader Hoyer on the street briefly, and I shared with him that Sue always enjoyed speaking about their interactions decades before. Without missing a beat, Leader Hoyer said, “Sue was one of a kind. She really should have been in Congress. She would have made such a difference.” He smiled that way we do when we have fond memories of someone who has passed and whose life made an imprint on our own.
I share this not only because it’s a joy to know others remember her the same way I do but also, I encourage you to engage your teams and staff with the same, effective practices which lead to strong teams and exceptional leadership.
Below are 10 principles you can incorporate in your leadership style that will have long-lasting, positive consequences. You never know; you may unintentionally groom the leaders of tomorrow with your thoughtful team building today.
To build a servant leadership style among your teams, you only have to read to principle number one. Listening.
Listen to your teams and find out how workflow and communication are (or aren’t) working now before we head into the hybrid work-from-home space. If you listen now, you will be able to implement solutions to problems that may be rearing their ugly head sooner than you think.
If you hear feedback that your workflow is too complicated, customers are unsatisfied, or you suspect your top talent is looking outside your organization for another position, I would love to have a conversation and discuss if our Streamlined Workplace Program is right for you.