By Dana Donahue – Vice President, Lake City Bank
2018 Class Member & Legacy Fund Fellow
What makes a great leader? As I sit here thinking about leadership, my thoughts are drawn to the kind of leader I desire to be. What kind of legacy as a leader do I wish to leave? What impact do I wish to make on my colleagues and employees? I believe being a servant leader is the best way to describe what I would like my legacy to be. To ensure this, I need to lead by example, empower my team, and make certain I am communicating in the best way for each individual on my team.
Leading by Example
When I was in my first leadership role directly out of college, I barely knew how to do my job let alone manage my team. At that point, I knew that if I worked closely with my team and showed them I was willing to put the same effort into the job as them, then I would gain their respect. As I became more experienced in my role as a leader, I learned every leader needs to be constantly evaluating more effective ways to lead. Servant leaders should have a team player mentality, being willing to step in where they are needed. Of course, being able to make tough decisions when necessary is also a must.
My favorite part of being a leader is empowering colleagues and employees through proper training and giving the proper tools needed to accomplish the goals of the organization. When I show confidence in the ability of a team member, they gain the confidence to complete the task. Both sides win, I am able to move on to the next task, and I have employees that are more confident and happier that I trust their ability. In most cases they come to me asking for more duties. This will empower others to make decisions for when the occasion arises that they may need to be the leader. As a servant leader I realize I am raising and training the next generation of leaders.
I recall struggling with the best way to communicate early in my career. I just told my team what I was thinking and how we needed to accomplish our goals. I was very reactionary and did not put much thought to how I responded to my employees. Then one day, I learned that one of my new employees did not want to work with me. I was shocked! I had to listen to why she didn’t want to work with me, and I learned that I was very direct and told people exactly what I was thinking. That is when I realized there are two ways to communicate the same message. “A” and “B” conversations. The “A” conversation was exactly what I was thinking with no filters. The “B” conversation was the same message but with a more indirect way of saying the same thing. Once I learned this, I was a much more effective communicator at work and in my personal life. Listening to that one employee being honest with me helped me become a better leader. Listening seems to be a lost art these days. Listening gives you the ability to meet the needs of your colleagues and employees. We must remember listening to understand is more important than listening to reply. Being available, approachable, and amiable is also must. Recognizing the accomplishments of others is key. When people feel they are appreciated and their ideas are heard, they work harder and invest more into their jobs. This creates longevity, making employees more vested in their company.
While there are several other factors that can be beneficial for servant leadership to be effective and successful, these are three key elements. Servant leadership is about leading by example, paying attention to others, and empowering them to succeed in the future.