Servant Leadership and Skilled Communication (Pillar III)

“A true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first.”

~Robert Greenleaf

Last week, we discussed the second pillar of servant leadership; Putting people first. The third pillar of servant leadership, as discussed in James Sipe and Don Frick’s book, Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership, is that a Servant-Leader is a Skilled Communicator. A Servant-Leader who is skilled in communication;

  • Listens earnestly and is an active speaker.
  • Seeks first to understand and then to be understood.
  • Is receptively listening to others while demonstrating authentic warmth, respect, and interest.
  • Is always inwardly mindful of and with self and welcomes feedback from others.
  • Is influential from a base of assertiveness and persuasion rather than power and position.

Three core competencies of a Servant-Leader who is a skilled communicator;

  • Demonstrates Empathy
  • Invites Feedback
  • Communicates Persuasively

It is understood that the skill communicator is one who has high-level people skills. These are the Servant-Leaders that display empathy (deep, accurate understanding), warmth (kindness and respect), genuineness (authenticity), concreteness (concrete and direct), initiative (solution-oriented and risk-taker), immediacy (here-and-now sharing), appropriate self-disclosure (sharing of self), confrontation (challenging others to grow), and self-exploration (inward self-reflection, welcomes feedback).

These types of soft skills are in demand in the 21st century business industry. I posted an article from the Sydney Morning Herald in which the author discussed the push from business leaders for the Melbourne Business School in Australia to include soft skills into their business courses as for students (especially high-tech students) to hone in on and build their leadership skills as well as people skills, such as the ones mentioned above. Whether in relationships, business acumen, and global insight, it is imperative that leaders today can deliver. Enterprises and companies are looking for leaders and employees who are self-aware and authentic.

The most critical of the list of people skills is empathy. Being empathetic is being keenly aware of another’s person’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. More than that is being able to understand another’s experience. The Toro Company in southwest Minnesota knows all too well about empathy.

Ken Melrose, former CEO of Toro Company, shared the story of empathy in action. There were complaints that the assembly lines were too slow. The management of the Toro Company was challenged to prove that quality products could be made at a greater speed. Well, you know what happened. The managers ran the lines for a day. They were consistently hitting the buttons to stop the lines, decreasing the line rate by 60%. At the end of the day, the management was in awe at how the “hourly workers” could keep the line going and engage in small talk about their lives, families, and so on. The management realized that many of the “hourly workers” lived their everyday life just like they did. Talk about empathy! The Toro Company began to send out corporate and divisional managers to visit and work at the plants. They began to instill a culture of empathy which they still do today.

Carl Rogers, who we know as the father of humanistic psychology, said this about the power of empathy;

“Being fully present means entering the private perceptual world of another and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion, or whatever he or she is experiencing. It means temporarily living in the other’s life; moving about in it delicately without making judgements. For empathy, presence must precede practice.”

The best way to connect in empathy is to listen. Indeed, listening with full presence and attention is the premier skill of a Servant-Leader.

To Listening,

Dr. Crystal

Crystal J. Davis is a servant leader, blogger, and researcher. She holds a Doctorate in Management specializing in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Davis is passionately engaged in Servant Leadership and selfless service to the nonprofit and public sectors having served both large and small organizations throughout her career and consulting business. Follow Crystal @DrDavis2126 (Twitter) and, Lead.From.Within. (Facebook).

© Copyright 2015 ~Dr. Crystal J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.

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