Servant Leader Discipline #5: Shares Leadership

The sixth in a seven-part series:

In addition to Valuing & Developing People, Building Community, and Providing Leadership …

Servant leaders Share Leadership – Servant leaders allow and expect others to lead believing that all can be effective leaders and effective followers. By sharing leadership, we empower others to step up and share their ideas (vision) to boldly act toward these ideas (action) to recruit others to the cause (mobilization) to create a new reality (change).

We allow others to lead.

Share Leadership

Servant leaders share leadership.

by Facilitating a Shared Vision

Peter Senge described shared vision as a “force in people’s hearts, a force of impressive power.” Vision itself, a compelling picture of a better future, is powerful, but when a vision is shared by people committed to each other and the mission they share it becomes exponentially stronger. Kouzes and Posner explored this power in more specific terms. “When visions are shared, they attract more people, sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges than those that are singular.” Servant leaders are not afraid to share their own vision, of course, but they also facilitate a process of capturing vision from everyone involved to clarify the key points of the vision they share. This shared vision is then owned by all, understood by all, and implemented by all. Servant leaders are convinced that vision can come from all levels of the organization and that sometimes top leaders have a more limited view than others. As leaders, we need the humility and openness to ask others for their vision of the future and how the organization can flourish even in the most difficult times.

by Sharing Power and Releasing Control

Servant leaders work to empower others by taking the risk to release control over them.

Consider the story of David Marquet who determined that truly great leaders give control to their followers rather than take control. When Marquet became captain of the nuclear submarine Santa Fe it was the poorest-performing sub in the fleet … When he boarded as captain he knew less about the ship than anyone else on board and he quickly realized how dependent he was on others. He tried to be the bold, commanding leader but knew that wouldn’t work for long. He knew how to command, but he didn’t know the ship. The officers under him knew the ship but only understood compliance to orders. It was a disaster waiting to happen” (Laub, 2018)

Sharing PowerMarquet released control to his men and trusted in their knowledge of the ship and their ability to lead. He empowered them to act while he learned from them and led them. By allowing them to lead and make important decisions he opened up their creativity and critical decision making. They stepped up to the higher expectation and were energized and engaged at the highest levels.

The Santa Fe moved from a commander with compliant followers to a team of leaders. No excuses, no blaming others; everyone was expected to lead and lead they did. The Santa Fe moved from worst to first in the fleet in all categories and several officers ended up commanding nuclear subs after their time on the Santa Fe. (Laub, 2018)

Servant leaders give power away. They are willing to release control and the need to make all of the major decisions so that others can step up to leadership.

by Sharing Status and Promoting Others

Leadership is not about position, perks, status or prestige. Leadership is about working with others to move the world to a better place. When top leaders claim the special privileges of their position and the various symbols of success they separate themselves from those they lead and work against building the sense of community and shared leadership they seek. Kent Keith says it well,

“To thrive as a servant-leader, you don’t need symbols of success. You need to get material results for your organization, but you need spiritual returns for yourself. You need the personal meaning that will feed your spirit and your soul and give you deep happiness. You need the kind of happiness that cannot come from power, wealth or fame. You need the happiness that can only come from a life of service.”

Servant leaders work to promote others before themselves. They empower others to envision the future and lead to make a difference. They resist the special privileges that come to those in high leadership positions in order to build community and shared ownership and purpose throughout the organization. Yes, servant leaders share leadership and through that act they call out the unique power and creativity that is in each person they lead.

In the final article in this 7-part Series we will dig deeper into one remaining key discipline of servant leadership to better understand how it works, how it is perceived and it is critical for developing organizational health and performance. I welcome your thoughts and questions.  

Your fellow servant,


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