Use Servant Leadership to capture Hearts, Minds & Market Share

Mar 25, 2024 | Growth Tips, Leadership, Management, Planning, Strategy

Servant Leadership is not well-understood – but very valuable.

It was first theorized by Robert Greenleaf in his essay “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970.

In this essay, Greenleaf challenges the traditional notions of leadership.

He proposed a new model where leaders prioritize serving others over exercising power and authority.

He emphasized ten character traits, including: listening, persuading (vs directing), conceptualizing (larger purpose goals and dreams), committing to the growth of others, and building community.

He also believed in tracking progress and measurable outcomes.

He was no wall flower.

Some think Servant Leadership has a religious basis, but Greenleaf was influenced greatly by his time at AT&T, where he worked 38 years ultimately as Director of Management Development.

It was not until his retirement that he started on his journey of developing this concept.

Servant Leadership in the Green Industry.

I became re-acquainted with this concept in preparing for our visit to Ryan Lawn & Tree, Kansas City, KS.

These guys have passion for expanding the industry and building full-time green industry careers for their people.

Larry Ryan says their preferred teaching method of Servant Leadership is to catch their people in the act (of doing things right.)

They also constantly measure productivity and results – to keep their business dream on track.

Larry is no wall flower, either!

I urge to you to come see their company first-hand during our Summer Growth Summit.

Here are other examples from members in our peer group community.

Think of the employee’s budget

Wade’ Vugteveen, Co-owner of DeHammer in MI, is a big proponent of people first. (Listen to my podcast with him and his brother to learn more.)

One comment he made that really stuck with me:

They think of their employee’s budgets first, and their own company budgets second.

In difficult times they first think about how any changes (e.g. in hours, benefits, or staffing) will impact their associates.

In fact all their growth goals are viewed through that lens.

Using grace to make decisions

Seth Kehne, Lawn Butler, Knoxville, TN has oft mentioned to me how he teaches his new managers to make people decisions using grace.

In business I take this to mean employing empathy, understanding, and connecting with people to reach the organization’s goals.

The organization as the servant

My old friend Shayne Newman, owner of YardScapes in Milford, CT, has been building his business with the overarching goal of being able to give back to his community.

His company is the vehicle for him to be a community servant leader.

Their keystone give-back event is their annual charity golf tournament, which they created and run.

Walk the talk

This whole a concept is close to my heart because it underlies how we operate as consultants.

We are always trying to figure out what is in the best interest of our clients, and we use many of the approaches outlined by Robert Greenleaf.

Your Challenge: As you articulate your goals, do so with your people in mind.

It is important to state your goals in terms of benefits to your people.

When we are consulting with landscape businesses, we are often asked to help solve ownership goals:
• increased earnings,
• fewer work hours for the owner,
• salability of their business,
• etc.

We urge the owner to transform her/his goals from “what’s in it for me” to “what’s in it for the team”

Take time to reframe your goals and articulate them in terms of the benefits to your team.

(And if you need help doing this, give us a call.)

Regards, Jeffrey Scott