Change Facilitation Through Agile Servant Leadership

Project managers are tasked with the important job of shepherding their teams through periods of transition, especially in times of uncertainty, when companies must be adaptable and open to change. Oftentimes, even in the best of circumstances, project managers may struggle to develop and maintain effective relationships with their team members. By embracing agile servant-leadership, project managers can acquire the capacity to influence their teams without the need for direct control. This, in turn, enables them to facilitate change throughout their organisation.

Agile Servant-Leadership

The emergence of servant-leadership as a concept within businesses was concurrent with the rise of Agile. Agile’s principles, which emphasise the necessity of people-focused leadership, collaborative work environments, and creating value for customers, are mirrored in the values of servant-leadership. Consequently, servant-leadership and Agile are two intertwined concepts that are essential for any organisation seeking to achieve success and growth.

Agile methodology has embraced the concept of servant leadership by introducing a new position: the team coach, also known as a Scrum Master in the most widely used Agile methodology, Scrum. The Scrum Master acts as a servant-leader, connecting teams to the organisation’s goal and creating an environment in which agility can thrive. Through goal-oriented communication and the teaching of independence and cross-functionality, this servant-leader is able to increase process efficiency, allowing businesses to remain adaptable and grow, and ultimately achieve their desired results.

Servant-leadership is a distinct approach to leadership that emphasises incorporating others in decision-making, and is founded on ethical and compassionate values. The Spears Centre has identified ten core criteria as fundamental to the successful implementation of servant-leadership. These criteria include an attitude, set of abilities, and body of knowledge that are essential to the successful implementation of the servant-leader approach.

When clearly identified and articulated, servant-leadership has the potential to significantly enhance employee productivity, promote organisational change, and foster a more dedicated commitment to the organisation’s objectives. By providing a framework for decision-making, servant-leadership has been shown to motivate and inspire employees, encouraging them to work towards the success of the organisation. Furthermore, it can positively impact the organisational culture, increasing morale, loyalty, and trust among staff members. Ultimately, servant-leadership is a powerful tool that can help organisations reach their desired outcomes.

A Framework for Servant-Leadership in Organisational Change

We can begin by exploring the servanthood-leadership framework for organisational transformation, a model that unites servanthood-based qualities with Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model, which is regularly viewed as the go-to approach to change management. This framework emphasises the role of servant-leadership in assisting organisations to adjust and evolve in sustainable ways. It advocates for a shift away from traditional top-down leadership styles and towards one that is collaborative, empowering, and focused on the needs of the people within the organisation. Through the Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze paradigm, the framework outlines a process of implementing change that involves recognising existing patterns, identifying areas for improvement, formulating a plan of action, and finally, reinforcing the new behaviour. Ultimately, this approach seeks to create an environment where change can be managed effectively and successfully.

A Commitment to Growth and an Altruistic Calling

Servant-leadership is based on a selfless motivation to serve others rather than pursuing personal gain. This type of leadership promotes the creation of a unified environment within the organisation, through the encouragement of reconciliation over conflict, the fostering of a sense of community and the acceptance of diversity. Additionally, servant-leaders are committed to helping their team develop both professionally and personally, which is essential for the successful transformation of the business.

Unfreezing

When a leader starts to pay attention to and acknowledge the needs of their people, they are initiating the process of introducing change. This initial step is necessary in order to prepare employees to accept and adapt to the changes that will be enacted, ultimately transforming the current status quo and introducing a new way of doing things. It is essential for leaders to have foresight when it comes to managing change; they must be able to project what the future might look like and create a powerful vision statement that clearly explains why the current process cannot remain. To do this effectively, leaders must be able to leverage their capacity to empathise and understand the needs of those they are leading.

A servant-leader must recognise the need to provide emotional support to individuals during this difficult and chaotic period. The initial step to generating positive change is to demonstrate trust that people’s needs will be taken into consideration. To assist followers in overcoming mental anguish, servant-leaders should consider the following strategies:

  • Actively listening to people’s complaints in order to give them time and space to become self-aware and communicate their demands.
  • Taking action to meet people’s needs and bringing about the required adjustments; instilling optimism
  • Communicating a clear transformation vision and objectives to staff in order to create the correct expectations and give structure

Many of the decisions made by a leader are based on an understanding of both their own and their team’s emotions and objectives. By utilising this knowledge, the servant-leader is able to make well-informed, conscientious decisions that contribute to the transformation process.

Change

At this juncture, individuals strive to remove any uncertainty and explore new ways to adjust. A servant-leader influences those around them by utilising evidence, facts, and rational thinking to persuade them to accept a new perspective. Persuasion delineates the contrast between the traditional leader-first and servant-leadership models: Servant-leaders make people feel as though they were involved in the decision-making process, rather than having decisions imposed on them by a higher authority.

Whilst employing wisdom to help leaders conceptualise and construct the foundations of change, persuasion can be used to effectively engage others, inspiring them to present novel concepts and commit to those which have been accepted. Servant leaders should prime this process by:

  • Identifying people’s abilities and skills, and complimenting them on their qualities
  • Showing employees how to use their strengths to overcome obstacles that will bring the company one step closer to its mission.
  • assisting individuals in developing and committing to action plans with short-term objectives

Refreezing

Once the organisation has fully integrated the changes, it enters the refreezing stage. During this phase, the servant-leader ensures that the new status quo is consistently adhered to and that any deviations from the established norm are addressed in a timely manner. To ensure that the transformation is a lasting one, the servant-leader emphasises the importance of collective responsibility throughout the organisation.

Organisational stewardship is a concept in which leaders and teams alike demonstrate a commitment to the overall flourishing of the organisation. By fostering a sense of community within the business, servant-leaders demonstrate an eagerness to take on the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the organisation. To do this, they create an atmosphere in which people are motivated to:

  • To empathise inside the workplace, demonstrate sensitivity, compassion, and emotional intelligence.
  • Accept responsibility for the negative effects of a change.
  • Recognise and celebrate improvements to positively encourage new behaviour.

Benefits

Project managers can more effectively facilitate the transformation process if they utilise the servant-leadership paradigm for organisational change. This approach encourages people to become more receptive and supportive of changes, as they notice their leaders actively addressing their needs and concerns. People gain a sense of pride and ownership of their accomplishments, as they collaborate with their leader and the organisation becomes more transparent.

Bottom-up leadership styles create an environment in which workers feel appreciated and valued by their supervisors. This kind of leadership encourages confidence in the supervisor and the company, as well as promoting a positive attitude among employees, who enjoy being a part of the business.

By cultivating characteristics that exemplify servant-leadership, project managers can empower individuals and teams to accomplish goals that are essential to the prosperity of their organisation. Through this process, people and teams are able to develop the capacity to reach these objectives, ultimately leading to greater success.

The first step is always the most difficult

Project managers who adopt a servant leadership approach are better equipped to manage their teams when introducing change. By cultivating a mindset of service towards others, the project manager can effectively prepare their team for the transition. The most difficult stage is often the process of instilling the servant leadership mentality, but the ultimate benefits in an Agile environment are substantial. This type of leadership promotes organised, understanding, and empowering practices that benefit both teams and individuals.

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