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Three Things Servant Leaders Do


“A company’s job isn’t to empower people; it’s to remind people that they walk in the door with power and to create the conditions for them to exercise it.”

– Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix 


This is the essence of Servant Leadership:  to bring people's gifts and potential to life.

What would be different if you were to see the individuals on your team as already powerful and get them to see it for themselves?

What would it look like for you to create the conditions for them to exercise their power? 

When you're able to do this you've become a True Servant Leader, your people will thank you because you will fundamentally change how they see themselves and their ability to do great work.



Create the Opening for Autonomy, Competency, and Connection

Psychologists, Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan, have spent years researching self-motivation, where it comes from, and how to cultivate it in others. 

They boiled it down to three core ingredients:  the human need for autonomy, competency, and connection. 

As a leader, your goal is to create the opening for everyone to come to work feeling self-motivated to do great work.

To do this effectively, we have to get out of our people’s way and provide them autonomy—the power to choose.  This is the ownership we so much want to see them take.  It starts with communicating clear expectations and keeping the power in their hands.

The second element of self-motivation is competency.  The premise is that if we don’t feel like we can do the job well or feel we lack the knowledge needed to do it well, then we are less likely to fully in engage in the work. 

So, as the leader, it’s important to hire people who are ready and willing to do the job and provide them the resources to learn and grow in their craft.

Lastly, every human being has a need for connection and purpose.  Being a purpose-driven organization creates the opportunity for everyone to engage beyond themselves in a purpose, cause, or passion that they find meaningful. 

Servant Leaders create a shared purpose that breeds connection with others.  They provide their team autonomy to take ownership and cultivate their team's strengths to excel in doing great work.



Help them See Their Power by Being Their Coach

Have you ever played for a great coach?  Think back to that experience.  What did that coach provide you?

You’re likely to remember them inspiring you and even pushing you to find your next level of performance.  Maybe their belief in you, had you starting to believe more in yourself.

That’s the power of a great coach.  They get you to see that you are powerful and that you have everything you need to find your own solutions. 

A coach asks empowering questions:

  • How much time have you spent thinking about the best next step here?
  • So, what’s the real challenge for you?
  • What else can you try?
  • What would be different if that were no longer the case?
  • How might you take some steps to explore that more?

Notice how each one of these questions keeps the power with the other person.  This approach paired with looking someone in the eye and telling them, “I’m confident you’re going to do great--you got this!”

Servant Leaders play the role of a great coach turning insights and ideas into action, without taking the power away from their team.



Don’t Compromise Their Power by Lowering Your Expectations

"How do I hold my people accountable?" This is the elusive question asked by many.

The short answer is you can’t.  Accountability isn’t something you do to people, it’s what comes as a result of maintaining high expectations.

You’ve created the right conditions for your team to thrive and you’re showing up as a great coach.  What more is there?

You must maintain a commitment to serving your people so that they achieve their potential.  The best way you can do that is to hold up a mirror and show them how they are performing.

They are the best judge of their performance, not you.

 To do this well you have to be objectively honest rather than fling labels, generalities, and judgments at your people.

You’re holding up a mirror for them to see their own performance so they can decide if that is what they want.  You’re not playing charades trying to get them to guess the right answer.

It might sound like this…

“You were 20 minutes into your presentation, and I was still unsure of what the goal of the project was.  Was that intentional?”

Notice the difference between the above and, “I think you could work on communicating more effectively.”

If you were on the receiving end of all this which one would find the most helpful?

The former example provides a clear objective experience followed by a question allowing them to respond with what they think.

Servant Leaders keep the power with their team and the way they raise performance is by providing their honest experience of the other person being, letting them decide whether or not that’s who they want to be.




Servant Leaders are able to create high-performing teams because they understand and believe in their people.  They see them as powerful.

Their number one goal is to see your team become healthier, wiser, and more autonomous.

It’s a leader’s ability to create the conditions for success, coach their people to believe in themselves, and maintain high expectations is what makes them a servant.

As a leader, in what ways could you better serve your people and provide them the best opportunity to achieve high-performance?


Your coach,


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