Power of Servant Leadership Approach

Table of contents:

While we discussed numerous project leadership keys in the previous section, it really boils down to a simple practical mindset that drives the thoughts, words, and actions of an effective project leader. It is a mindset of "service-first" and not "me-first." Personally, I had served as a project manager for many years before I ever learned that there was a name for the natural approach that I took to managing projects. The approach is called servant leadership, and it was popularized by Robert Greenleaf in 1970 in his book The Servant as Leader. Since then, the philosophy of servant leadership has been steadily growing in popularity and now serves as the foundation for most modern-day leadership training programs.

The servant leadership approach to project management gives you the best chance of doing the right work, the right way, for the right people.

One of the main reasons I took this type of approach naturally is because "it just made sense." In a project environment, where you are stakeholder-focused, where you must rely on yourself, where you must effectively relate to others to get work done, and where you must completely understand the needs and requirements of your customers to deliver the proper solution, it just seems to be a very practical path to take.

To me, it is a synergistic approach for any organization (or project) that values strong customer-service and team-focused approaches in their leaders.

To better illustrate what is meant by a servant leadership approach, and why I think this approach gives you the best chance of doing the right work, the right way for the right people on your project, let's look at the prominent characteristics of this philosophy:

  • Asserts a strong service-orientation; lead by expanding service to others
  • Emphasizes listening, patience, respect, and responsiveness
  • Takes the perspective of others; maintains the best interest of others
  • Accepts responsibility; takes initiative
  • Encourages collaboration and trust; empowers individuals


    When dealing with people, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting and a humble spirit.

  • Seeks growth and improvement in all team members, organization, and community
  • Solicits input and feedback from all stakeholders; especially in decision-making process
  • Insists on the use of skills to influence and persuade, not manipulate
  • Spotlights a strong integrity principlethe ethical use of power

Again, like all project management and leadership skills, a servant-leadership mindset is not an "all-or-nothing" approach. It is spectrum between a total egocentric, leader-first mindset on one end and a complete servant-first thought pattern on the other end. The goal is to do your best, continue to learn and work to improve over time, just like the other skill set areas.

The Absolute Minimum

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of the following:

  • You lead people, but manage processes.
  • All project management skill sets are interlaced with leadership skills.
  • Project leadership is not the sole domain of the project manager.
  • The 12 keys to better project leadership include

    • Focus on the people
    • Provide a clear picture of the project goals and how to get there
    • Look at the project from the perspective of the other stakeholders
    • Earn their trust
    • Earn their respect
    • Facilitate progress
    • Take ownership and responsibility
    • Be resilient, adaptable, and flexible
    • Be a teacher
    • Strive for excellence
    • Compensate for any weaknesses
    • Demonstrate self-control
  • A servant-leadership approach to project management is practical, common-sense mindset that gives you the best opportunity for project success.
  • For more information on Servant Leadership, check out the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership at http://www.greenleaf.org/.

Figure 16.2 summarizes the main points we reviewed in this chapter:

Figure 16.2. Overview of leading a project.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169

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