Servant Leadership practices are intrinsically motivating. That said, all forms and practices of leadership are motivating to some extent, but most do not motivate employees and team members to higher lives of enthusiasm.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of motivation suggests that the highest level of motivation provides for opportunities of personal growth.

Ideally, individual motivation, i.e. personal enthusiasm or “The God within”, is an expectation of employees. A requirement of employment is that people will report to their job ready to work, happy, and enthusiastic about their job.

However, this doesn’t always happen. Personal problems, late night entertainment, getting cut-off on the freeway, and various other causes inhibit worker attitude to the point of negativity in the work-place.

Consequently, leaders need to have several tools available in their leadership toolbox to deal with these kinds of situations and attitudes that lower teamwork productivity and cohesiveness.

Servant Leadership Principles

If utilized properly and effectively, with a caring and empathetic attitude, Servant Leadership principles and practices are motivational tools for leaders without the necessity of special programs and enticements that provide only material rewards for superior performance.

The following 9 Servant Leadership practices enhance employee  motivation, as well as improving team-member personal growth – i.e. Self-Actualization levels.

Motivating Practices to Serve the Needs of Others:

  1. Open lines of communication to discover personal problems. Ask questions about their feelings. Ask for their input on ideas and possible changes in methods. Ask if there is anything you as their leader can do to improve things for them.
    Answer their emails, even when just to say “Thank You” for your input and/or suggestion.
  2. Listen to their comments with a deep-seeded, caring and empathetic concern. Observe their non-verbal communications. Maintain receptiveness of what is being said to understand the “will” and “intent” of their communications. Listen intently to the “spirit” and “mind-set” of what is being said without injecting your leadership desire to solve their problems. Be a skilled, empathetic listener.
  3. Accept them as people with worth and value – or as Maxwell says, “Treat everyone like a “10”. Assume good intentions in every behavior, but refusing to accept bad behavior. Serve the organization by confronting and holding non-conformers to the same high ethical standards as others.
  4. Exercise a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Expand your self-awareness, self-regulation and internal motivation – a passion for serving others with internal and conscious motivations.
  5. Motivate through persuasive leading and building consensus within teams and groups. Exhibit strong relationship-building skills. Be there for them with a strong and sincere commitment to their personal and professional growth. Provide them with professional development opportunities, either off-site or with inter-departmental training.
  6. Involve them in the decision-making process. Empower them to make a decision within their groups with the understanding and knowledge that the decision is for the good of the organization, and not for their own benefit or notoriety. In addition, leadership is responsible for the moral and ethical development of all employees, which insures performance is in accordance to organizational standards.
  7. Be a person of character who leads with the utmost moral authority. Being the example of professional character and high moral standards makes a leader worthy of respect, inspiring trust and confidence, enabling the establishment of accountability to ensure superior standards of performance. This is the obvious key to moral and ethical consistency in preserving organizational core competencies.
  8. Use the organizational Vision, Mission and Goals as a constant motivator to maintain continual focus on the ideals of excellence, remembering that Leadership PRIDE is a “Personal Responsibility In Developing Everyone.”
  9. Keep the focus on “People First”, serving others with a commitment to meeting their highest priority development needs. This aspect of Servant Leadership is the “Calling” describes by Greenleaf as a ‘natural desire’ to serve others, with a ‘willingness’ to sacrifice the self-interest of leadership.

The Natural Calling of Servant Leadership

The key to motivating employees is the focus a servant leader places on the welfare and growth of everyone in the organization.

The motivating factor is that the Servant Leader pursue every opportunity to positively impact the behaviors of employees first – making a difference in their lives.

This is a ‘natural calling’ of Servant Leadership, which is never for personal gain, but a sacrifice for the sake of others and their personal and professional growth.

Navy SEALS Captain Bill Wilson says, “The best kinds of leaders are Servant Leaders who willingly sacrifice for others for the greater good.”  Employee motivation is definitely for the greater good of the employee and the organization.

Do your leadership practices motivate employees to higher levels of excellence?

How Do You Motivate Using Servant Leadership?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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David McCuistion
David is a retired Naval Officer with extensive leadership and management experience including Officer-in-Charge of a major communication facility, in secondary education teaching leadership, and over five years public speaking on Servant Leadership and organizational development topics.