The art of leading global teams is a difficult one, even in the best of times. Amid economic uncertainties, the inability to travel across borders, and an unprecedented pandemic, effective leadership may seem impossible. And yet, in these difficult times, your employees may be looking to you for guidance more so than ever.
So, what does the evidence say is the most effective way to lead during a crisis?
Studies indicate that tactics from the servant leadership approach maintain their effectiveness whether offered virtually or in-person. And given its emphasis on putting followers first and helping them to cope during challenging times, servant leadership is an answer for managers looking for a leadership style to thrive now and into the future, post COVID-19.
What is servant leadership?
Servant leadership is an other-oriented leadership approach, focused on building and maintaining meaningful relationships with followers, as well as having a broader concern for the organisation and larger community. Servant-leaders behave ethically, seek to empower their employees, and put others first, whether that is employees or members of the community.
Servant leadership is good for your people. Employees who work with a servant-leader are likely to thrive in the workplace, by experiencing high levels of wellbeing, engagement at work and in their home life, meaningfulness in their work.
Servant leadership is also good for business. Over 200 academic peer-reviewed articles demonstrate servant leadership increases organisational (firm, operational, customer-orientation), team, and employee performance. More importantly, servant leadership can influence performance by almost 20% more than traditional leadership approaches focused solely on task management and organisational goals.
Servant leadership has been working for many organisations before COVID-19 and continues to work throughout. For example, Home Depot has continued to put their employees and their local communities first during the crisis, guaranteeing wages for employees infected or quarantined, providing additional vacation time to cope, and donating personal protective equipment to hospitals. Despite the costs associated with these measures, Home Depot stock evaluation has earned record highs during COVID-19.
For senior managers, there are many ways demonstrations of daily servant-leader behaviours can have a significant impact to help their organisation and employees thrive.
How to be a servant-leader during COVID-19
Want to learn more? Click here for a deeper dive with more information on servant leadership, the evidence for its impact on organisational performance, and how you can implement it in your team or organisation.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Management at Monash Business School. His work examines post-heroic theories of leadership (servant, ethical, collective) and how they have profound and lasting effects on follower and organisational performance, innovation, and helping behaviours. His research challenges the idea of heroic leadership and argues we need to rethink how we lead and what leadership behaviours we should reward. His peer-reviewed work appears in outlets such as The Leadership Quarterly, Human Resource Management, and Journal of Business Ethics. Dr. Eva is a committee member of the Network of Leadership Scholars and a facilitator for the International Leadership Association’s Leadership Education Academy.
Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Mississippi. Jeremy brings an eclectic background to the study of leadership, holding degrees in computer engineering, philosophy, and spirituality, and a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago and entrepreneurial and managerial experience in the private sector in information technology, high school teaching, and internships in the medical field. He published servant leadership research in the Academy of Management Journal and The Oxford Handbook of Leadership in Organisations. Dr. Meuser’s teaching experience includes leadership development. He currently serves as the Eminent Leadership Scholar Coordinator and Co-president of the Network of Leadership Scholars.
Assistant Professor of Organisation and Human Resources, and a researcher with the Center for Leadership and Organisational Effectiveness, at the University at Buffalo (State University of New York). His research focuses on leadership, ethics, and creativity, and has been published in the Harvard Business Review and Business Horizons, as well as academic journals like the Academy of Management Annals and Journal of Applied Psychology. His work also frequently appears in magazines such as Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, and Entrepreneur. Prior to obtaining his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, he was an entrepreneur, consultant, and manager at companies such as AT&T.
Ph.D. student in the Department of Management at Monash Business School. Her research explores how gender interacts with communal approaches to leadership. Specifically, how gender roles shape our expectations and evaluations of leaders’ other-orientated behaviours. Karryna has presented her research globally including Indonesia and the United States. Her teaching experience includes leadership and international business.
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