Why Being a Servant Leader Is Essential for Your Business's Long-Term Growth

Servant leadership is an effective tool for engaging and retaining your staff. It also positions your organization for long-term growth.

learn more about Shelly Sun

By Shelly Sun

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The past two years intensified some of the most significant issues impacting nearly every industry, ranging from a massive supply chain challenge to a nationwide labor shortage. These factors have forced all parts of the business ecosystem to either adapt or pivot to move forward.

As a female founder and the CEO of a national home health care franchise, I have firsthand experience on how to lead a team thoughtfully during times of major adversity. To be successful during a time with so much uncertainty, I firmly believe that leaders must serve the needs of their employees through servant leadership. Having a "serve-first" mindset helps the organization build a stronger work culture with higher employee morale and engagement.

Servant leadership can be applied across all industries and sectors of business. The following are tried and true examples and best practices of how to lead with empathy. As you read, you'll learn how these processes can strengthen business operations within your organization, as they've helped my business and our 365+ locations nationwide.

Related: How to Retain Employees Through 'Servant' Leadership

Why your company needs servant leadership

Servant leadership is crucial for your company's long-term success and future growth. This style of leadership helps build trust and loyalty between you and your team members. It's no secret that when leaders effectively serve their teams, performance improves significantly. The reason is simple: When your employees feel heard, appreciated and respected, they perform better.

It also reinforces confidence and showcases your commitment to your staff to see them flourish in their careers. Practicing servant leadership helps keep teams more engaged and mission-driven, which boosts the company's employee retention and can greatly reduce turnover costs. This is important not only during times of crisis, like the current state of the workforce, but also as team members look to grow and plan the next phase of their careers. People are our number one asset, and in my experience, investing in our team and helping them perform at high levels through empathy, compassion and encouragement has helped to boost team productivity.

How to implement it in the workplace

As a leader, it can be difficult to completely embrace servant leadership. Many of us (myself included), built our business from the ground up. The truth is, to see long-term success, we now must work twice as hard to lead and motivate our teams, helping them reach their full potential. One of my company's core values is "serving with passion, kindness, and empathy," and I lean on this daily to guide my leadership, which has allowed me to build a trusting relationship with our franchisees and internal staff. Your company's mission is there for a reason and should be the building blocks on which you lead.

Another large pillar of servant leadership is leading by example. Lead with efforts employees see and results they can quantify, such as an evaluation of employee turnover or an assessment on the rate of employee advancements within the company. Last, if you're totally unsure how to kick your servant leadership skills into gear, start by looking for holes in your business, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where can your skills as an executive be most beneficial to help struggling parts of your business?

  • Is there a market or territory that needs your immediate attention or support?

After identifying the aspects of the business that need your support, it is important to open the dialogue to employees and encourage their feedback, especially those who will be most impacted. By actively listening to your team, you're not only showing that you value their input, but it will also provide you with intel into any concerns they are experiencing. By practicing this, integral parts of the business will thrive when executives offer resources and support.

Related: Why Servant Leadership is Becoming the Leadership Style of the Future

Reward and honor your staff

At a time when The Great Resignation is in full force, it is essential to show your employees just how much you value them. If you haven't already, now is the time to establish reward and/or incentive programs for your employees. Programs like this give teams something to look forward to and work towards. At my company, we have an annual "Nurse and Caregiver of the Year" program that has boosted morale amongst our care staff. While a reward system might look different for your organization, try to think outside of the box when incentivizing staff. Is it revamping your company's benefits with retention and merit bonuses? Or is it offering employees scholarships and funding to enroll in additional training, classes or certifications programs to expand their skillsets? Whichever route you decide, make sure the incentive program addresses the needs of your employees at every level.

As we look to the future after experiencing some of the most challenging times of the last decade, we must be forward-thinking. Put plans in place that will keep your organization moving forward and can easily be implemented during times of crisis. Plan for the future while establishing a strong foundation that will serve as a launching pad for your company's success. By placing servant leadership at the forefront of how you lead and by putting your people and communities first, you're setting the stage for sustainable organizational growth and a workplace environment that competitors will not be able to match.

Related: Why Every Entrepreneur Should Be a Servant Leader

Shelly Sun

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO and Founder of BrightStar Care

Shelly Sun is a certified franchise executive and the founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, a national home-care and medical-staffing franchise with more than 365 locations, which provides medical and non-medical services to clients within their homes and supplemental care staff to businesses.

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