High speeds create blurred perspectives. Likewise, today's leaders work in fast-paced and complex environments that create a blurred perception of reality. Too often, what appears to be task-oriented problems, in fact, are process-related problems. When leaders focus on individual or department performance instead of organizational performance, it can lead to individual and department success without achieving organizational success. For example, working as an internal talent consultant, I have observed a common phenomenon across many different industries and organizations. Performance systems often focus too heavily on the individual performer rather than the organization's performance. This focus can lead to individuals performing above average and the organization below average. Individual performance is necessary, but not entirely. This is important because recent research supports that the organization is four times more impactful on business results than individual talent.
"Talent matters; organization matters even more" (Ulrich, 2020).
Leading at full speed requires skill. A servant leadership style creates increased intrinsic motivation toward shared goals by building healthy relationships and a shared vision. More simply stated, servant leadership "leads to teamwork" and can be the difference between created and realized strategies. Additionally, servant leadership increases organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) or discretionary effort, the "holy grail" for organizational talent. OCB is a worthy contribution made by employees beyond their job requirements. As organizations strive to increase revenue, OCB reduces opportunity costs and increases productivity and efficiency by bringing out the best in employees.
When most people think of organizations that embrace and apply servant leadership, Starbucks, Marriot, and Chic-fil-A come to mind. However, another one of those companies that sit behind the scenes to most consumers is Sodexo. Sodexo is the global leader in the business services and supplies industry with its headquarters in France. As of 2019, this international organization employed over 470,000 people in 67 countries. Unlike some of the more commonly considered companies, Sodexo does not have an overt statement on servant-leadership. However, its mission and leaders’ actions align with the Greenleaf and Spears (2002) servant-leadership characteristics (See Table 1).
Leadership Skills at Full Speed
The pandemic has increased the speed and volume of work for leaders. Sarosh Mistry, Region Chair for North America and Chief Executive Officer Homecare Worldwide, recently described a couple of organizational pandemic responses demonstrating servant leadership skills at full speed. Showing genuine care for communities beyond the company Sodexo provided comprehensive food services for children no longer receiving free lunches due to school closings. Additionally, Sodexo demonstrated altruism for employees' welfare, creating a $30 million relief fund for COVID impacted employees. When asked what he would do differently in response to the pandemic, Sarosh indicated that he wishes he would have done even more for Sodexo employees.
If you are interested in learning more about servant-leadership and other emerging leadership styles you will want to read the article 4 Emerging Leadership Styles and Why You Should Care. Also, are you interested in better understanding your own leadership style? Contact Organizational Talent Consulting to learn more about a leadership style inventory assessment you can use to measure your preferred leadership style and receive individualized executive coaching.
Ehrhart. M. G. (2004). Leadership and procedural justice climate as antecedents of unit-level organizational citizenship behavior. Personnel Psychology. 57 (1).
Hassell, B. (2017). What do today's workforce trends mean for business, leadership? Chief Learning Officer. https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2017/03/20/todays-workforce-trends-mean-business-leadership/
Kwittken, A. (2020, May 4). Moving from service leadership to servant-leadership during a pandemic: A conversation with Sodexo North America chair Sarosh Mistry [Audio podcast]. Brand on Purpose. https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/moving-from-service-leadership-to-servant-leadership/id1469230253?i=1000473636825
Patterson, K. (2003, October 16). Servant leadership: A theoretical model [PDF]. Regent University School of Leadership Studies Servant Leadership Research Roundtable. http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2003/patterson_servant_leadership.pdf
Sodexo. (2019). Fiscal 2019 universal registration document [PDF]. LABRADOR. https://www.sodexo.com/files/live/sites/sdxcom-global/files/PDF/Finance/20191121_Sodexo-Fiscal-2019-Universal-Registration-Document_EN.pdf
Sodexo. (2020). About Us. https://us.sodexo.com/about-us.html
Ulrich, D. (2020). Knowing which organization capabilities make a difference. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/knowing-which-organization-capabilities-make-dave-ulrich/?trackingId=QD2FadFK%2FZeBt6xcDzhZMg%3D%3D
Winston, B., & Fields, D. (2015). Seeking and measuring the essential behaviors of servant leadership. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 36(4), 413-434. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-10-2013-0135
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About the Author:
Jeff's knowledge and expertise include leadership development, servant leadership, and coaching to grow individuals and organizations. Jeff has experience from start-ups to Fortune 50 public, Forbes 25 private, for-profit, and non-profit organizations across diverse industries. Jeff Doolittle is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI. He can be reached at email@example.com or by calling (616) 803-9020. Visit his blog at https://www.organizationaltalent.com/blog-1 for more ideas to stimulate individual, team, and organizational effectiveness.