HR professionals identify key attributes of a servant leader you may be missing

June 14, 2018 David Witt

What are the attributes of a modern servant leader in business today—someone who puts the interests of others on equal footing with their own? The Ken Blanchard Companies recently completed a three-city tour piloting servant leadership content with leadership, learning, and talent development professionals in Houston, New York, and Ft. Lauderdale.  As a part of the executive briefing, more than 120 HR and OD professionals were asked to define the attributes and behaviors of a servant leader.  Nearly forty attributes were identified.*

Topping the list of servant leader attributes was empathy, closely followed by being selfless and humble.  Also mentioned multiple times were being authentic, caring, collaborative, compassionate, honest, open-minded, patient, and self-aware. The word cloud pictured above features all of the attributes that were identified.

When it came to the top three behaviors servant leaders demonstrate, the leadership and learning professionals identified listening, followed by asking questions and developing others.

For leaders looking for ways to be more others-focused in their work conversations with direct reports, coaching experts Madeleine Homan Blanchard and Linda Miller suggest taking a LITE approach by learning four essential communication skills that form the acronym LITE.

Skill 1: Listen to Learn

Listening is one of the most essential skills any manager can have. Good listeners focus on what the other person is saying and respond in ways that make others feel heard and valued. In any interaction, managers should:

  • Listen with the intent of understanding the other person
  • Set aside distractions
  • Focus on the person and give their undivided attention

Skill 2: Inquire for Insight

Great managers draw their people out. They ask questions that allow employees to share insights and ideas that can benefit projects, tasks, and the team as a whole. And it helps the manager to understand the underlying motivations in regard to what drives behavior. Managers should:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Emphasize what and how rather than why
  • Encourage the direct report, once the conversation comes to an end, to recap in order to check for understanding

Skill 3: Tell Your Truth

Being honest builds trust and authenticity; it allows managers to share information that’s needed to help their employee move forward. Many managers are afraid being honest will hurt others’ feelings, but in all actuality, a truthful exchange can empower others. When telling their truth, managers need to:

  • Be brave, honest, and respectful
  • Be open to other perspectives
  • Avoid blame or judgment while they focus on forward movement

Skill 4: Express Confidence

When managers express confidence in their people, it builds employees’ self-assurance and enthusiasm. In conversations with others, managers should:

  • Highlight relevant qualities or skills
  • Point out previous successes
  • Offer support as needed

If you want your managers to deepen their leadership skills, you must teach them to use coaching skills and encourage a strong coaching culture within your organization. Help your managers develop the mindset of an effective coach by familiarizing them with the coaching process and providing effective coaching skills that will help their teams accelerate their performance.

Madeleine Homan Blanchard explains, “When you take the LITE approach, people walk away from the conversation feeling heard, validated, and ready to take action on what was discussed. These skills will help managers interact with their people more effectively and promote clarity and positivity.”

Interested in learning more about adding a servant leadership skillset into your existing leadership development program?  Join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a free webinar on June 20.  Use this link to learn more about Creating A Servant Leadership Curriculum.  The event is free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies.

*Special thanks to research interns Casey McKee and Hunter Young for compiling data and creating the word cloud graphic which accompanies this post.

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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