What exactly does a great leader do? Are they the standard-bearer, setting direction and providing instruction to others? Or should they facilitate progress, helping the rest of the team achieve their shared goals? The traditional view of a leader is perhaps with the former. But that view is changing. A leader can be the catalyst for improvement in the group—actually acting as someone who provides a service for the rest of the team. That has led to the phrase “servant leadership.”
Servant leadership isn’t a brand-new concept thought up by management gurus or Harvard Business School. It actually goes back to the days of Confucius. Modern-day servant leadership has roots in the principle that leaders are compelled to make the welfare of their team their top priority. The team then performs to a high level as they are satisfied, comfortable, and feel valued. Someone who has all of these three elements in their life can perform to their optimum level.
Sometimes perceived as a military type of operation, loss prevention may seem that it needs a traditional leader, telling people when to jump and even how high. But loss prevention is surprisingly well suited to servant leadership. Detecting dysfunctional behavior and dealing with the outcomes can take an emotional toll on team members. If the outcome is internal shrinkage, then the emotional toll is even greater. With this in mind, being understood as a human being by a servant leader over being seen as an employee helps to improve mood, contentment, and performance.
The servant leader holds “putting others first” as a critical behavior. In loss prevention, this is incredibly empowering as people in the organization look to develop their own effective solutions as part of a collaborative effort rather than waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Becoming more effective as an organization saves time and money. If a servant leader can inspire others to develop, then they will save both.
What Are the Behaviors of a Servant Leader?
A servant leader displays certain behaviors that provide the perfect environment for a high-performing team to grow:
- Emotional intelligence (huge in today’s challenging social media world)
- Putting others first while still always delivering on the mission
- Catalyzing the growth and success of others
- Leading by example with ethical behaviors
- Empowering others to make decisions (not micromanaging)
- Creating value for everyone (inclusive of C-Suite)
As you start to look at these behaviors, you can see the kind of impact a servant leader would have on an organization, specifically the loss prevention department. As we look for examples of servant leaders in life, it is obvious that religious leaders and political figures come to the forefront. Martin Luther King Jr. is a prime example of someone who gave his time to create value for the people who followed him.
Not-for-profit organizations have the same kind of relationship with their leaders in general. But nothing is stopping a for-profit organization from utilizing the power of servant leadership. Loss prevention teams can adopt this style of leadership to boost their productivity and ensure they become effective.
Managing a Reverse Pyramid
In terms of loss prevention, the solutions lie in having a team operating as closely as possible to optimal. Engaged people have been a common issue in the loss prevention industry. Those who are under stress are often demotivated, but the servant leader displays a level of emotional intelligence that inspires others to bring their A game day after day. The LP function then becomes a powerful driving force throughout the company. They say that culture eats strategy for breakfast. The culture of empowering people to take responsibility, make improvements, and invest in self-development is infectious.
Some people doubt the legitimacy of this approach, referred to as the “reverse pyramid.” After all, who has ever seen a pyramid stand on its head? But once you see the vast benefits of a servant leader in the loss prevention industry, you will have no doubt in its potential. The best ideas come from the bottom up, from those doing the good work.
If you are lucky enough to meet a servant leader who manages a reverse pyramid, hold onto that unicorn as they are few and far between. And if they are not already in loss prevention, recruit them.