Servant Leader vrs Leader With Boundaries: How Can It Be Both?
How can I really serve, influence and lead my people without having them run over me?
How can I be a servant leader and still have boundaries as well in my leadership? Most of us would rather avoid micromanagement. But still there are many times when we are being the servant leader where it seems like we're lowering our boundaries. Rather than delegating to a staff member a simple task we will find ourselves going out and doing it to play the role of servant leader. I found myself doing this the other day in buying cups and Kleenex for the clinic.
Why all the above might not really be a big deal, leaders quickly find themselves enmeshed in minutia and managing or micromanaging way beyond their job description. How do we deal with this?
One of my suggestions is to define your responsibilities in terms of responsibilities to certain people and responsibilities for certain things. Even deciding and communicating that you are not responsible for other people's feelings, happiness, or lives can help you resist the temptation to over-function as a leader or manager.
It is another thing to be the servant leader who helps people do their job. There are plenty of opportunities as leaders for us to do that without stepping over boundaries or making requests that people do certain things or they do them certain ways that help the organization. One of the things to measure here is what can people do for themselves and where do they need help from others. Also, who is best equipped to help them if they do need help.
Another great trick is to define expectations first with yourself and second of all with others. See if these expectations are reasonable. Are you doing the task for them or you actually helping them? This is sometimes the first step in understanding if you're going over boundaries, yours and or others. I do know of a former Navy Captain, who in his civilian job, would go down and help his people with the machines on the floor of the factory. But this was only for a short while and he did it, not so much to help with the task at hand, but more to create goodwill and good relationships with his staff.
One of the best ways you can determine whether you're going over boundaries as a servant leader is to check to see if you're reacting versus responding. If you are reacting you are probably stepping over boundaries, your own or other people's. It is probably okay to be soft on the person and hard on the issue at hand, but you have to make sure that you can see the difference and especially that your employee can see the difference. I have been managed this way as an employee and I can tell you that I always come away feeling good even though my behavior was corrected.
Remember that results and reality can be your best friends especially if you can evaluate them with others. That's why bonding is so important to having good boundaries. In a closed system the energy will go down, the chaos will go up and discord will rule. The leader becomes a leader to themselves and they only have their own view. In an open system there is bonding, support and accountability that can do much to strengthen the servant leader as they learn how to serve more and set good boundaries at the same time.