9 Ways to Motivate People Using Servant Leadership

By David McCuistion

Updated Over a Week Ago

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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 opportunities for 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 attitudes to the point of negativity in the workplace.

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 improve team-member personal growth – i.e., Self-Actualization levels.

Motivating Practices

1. Open 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 with Caring and Empathetic Concern

Observe their non-verbal communication. Maintain receptiveness of what is being said to understand the “will” and “intent” of their communications. Listen intently to the “spirit” and “mindset” of what is being said without injecting your leadership’s desire to solve their problems. Be a skilled, empathetic listener.

3. Accept Them as People with Worth and Value

Treat everyone like a “10”. Assume good intentions in every behavior, but refuse 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

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 ensures performance is in accordance with organizational standards.

7. Be a Person of Character

Leads with the utmost moral authority. Being an 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

Use them as a constant motivator to maintain a 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”

Serve others with a commitment to meeting their highest priority development needs. This aspect of Servant Leadership is the “Calling” described 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 pursues 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?

What Do You Think About Servant Leadership?

If you have ideas about servant leadership that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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David McCuistion
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.
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