Does servant leadership really improve anything? Actually it does.

When managers create a culture where employees know the boss puts their needs over his own, measureable improvements in customer satisfaction, higher job performance and lower turnover are the result.

According to research just published in the Academy of Management Journal, employees feel the most valued and, in return, give back to the company and its customers when their bosses create a culture of trust, caring, cooperation, fairness and empathy.

According to one of the authors of the research, Sandy Wayne, “The best business leadership style is far from, ‘Do this. Don’t do that’. A servant leader looks and sounds a lot more like, ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’ or ‘Let me help you…’ or ‘What do you need to…?’ This approach helps employees reach their full potential.”

The corresponding admiration employees have for bosses who care about them manifests itself in teamwork, loyalty and dedication to the business and its customers, say the researchers, adding that the leadership style trickles down.

“It’s contagious,” Wayne said. “The employees see their leaders as role models and often mimic those qualities, creating a culture of servant leadership. This serving culture drives the effectiveness of the business as a whole.”

The study was conducted at the Jason’s Deli restaurant chain, and the sample included:

• 961 employees
• 71 Jason’s Deli restaurants
• 10 metropolitan areas

The findings were based on data from surveys completed by managers, employees and customers, as well as data from corporate records. Wayne says stores with servant leaders experienced the following positive outcomes:

• 6% higher job performance
• 8% more [favourable] customer service behaviours
• 50% less likely to leave the company

The researchers conclude that when businesses lead by caring for their people, the profits will take care of themselves.

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