The word micromanager often carries a negative connotation because, from an employee’s perspective, that type of leader is over-involved in his work, creates tension, and doesn’t trust employees enough to do their job.
Servant leadership, on the other hand, brokers mutual trust because such leaders believe in employees’ skills and knowledge. With a more collaborative and positive approach than micromanagers, servant leaders are well-positioned to impact employee development and, with it, company growth.
Trust is a key issue today as more companies consider part-time or full-time remote work in the wake of COVID-19. Servant leadership is becoming more important in getting the most out of employees while keeping them comfortable and engaged.
Most leaders believe they should have all the answers and not demonstrate weakness. But a servant leader shows great strength and awareness by putting employees first and focusing on the growth and well-being of his/her people.
I had my eureka moment as a company leader when I asked my employees if I was micro-managing them. I learned how to become a servant leader and see how everyone can benefit.
In building a company from the ground up, I had become so entrenched in the day-to-day tasks of each role in the company — having done every job myself — that I lost sight of what my newest role required most: real leadership in the form of servant leadership.
Here are tips for a company leader to change from a micromanager into a servant leader:
• Follow the 3 Is — invest, inspire, ignite. To build a stronger team that has confidence and a high degree of autonomy and productivity, leaders should invest in education and training. Inspire with your vision and emphasize employees role in it. You ultimately let go and empower them to execute their jobs within the framework of the core culture values. Your best employees will perform at a higher level because they crave that earned freedom.
• Create core culture values. I don’t advocate using honesty and integrity as core values because they are table stakes. No one says we want to lie, cheat, or be dishonest to our customers and employees. Better core culture values are “the customer comes first” and “continuous improvement”. One way to create or strengthen core culture values is to have a team of highly regarded employees brainstorm about the company’s best attributes. Celebrate the core values each month by asking employees for examples of peers who have demonstrated a core value.
• Create alignment. The reason why a business does what it does stands as its purpose or mission. When a company is fully aligned with that purpose, empowerment flows. The talented people out there want great leaders who can empower them. And you can’t empower people unless you are all aligned. You create amazing strength and collective focus.
• Delegate more responsibilities. High performers expect to receive bigger opportunities due to their commitment and consistent production. If they must wait too long for those opportunities, their resentment may grow. But sometimes the leader is reluctant to cede control. Servant leaders learn it’s a fool’s errand, and that it hinders the growth of the company’s most talented people, to keep feeling they have to do everything themselves.
• Live in gratitude. When you develop a life of living in gratitude, it’s [compelling] to others, often inspiring them to do more of the same. Unfortunately, many leaders are negative because they are leading ungrateful lives, and they can’t truly motivate people through cynicism, anger, or intimidation. Effective leaders live in gratitude. Coming from a place of respect, appreciation, and generosity, they’re more authentic, and others, in turn, trust and respect them.
Empower your team through your passion and enthusiasm in them as employees and people. Allow them to make the company better and to represent it in the best light.
Doug Meyer-Cuno is ForbesBooks author of “The Recipe For Empowered Leadership: 25 Ingredients For Creating Value & Empowering Others.” He founded a food- ingredients distribution company, Carolina Ingredients, and expanded it into a nationally recognized industrial-seasoning manufacturer before it was acquired by Mitsubishi in 2019. Since then, he has founded the company, Empowered Leadership.