The importance of servant leadership in the PMP exam

Gathering and leading a team is at the heart of project management. But, what really matters, is finding the most effective leadership approach to lead your project team and deliver your project successfully. PMI seems to be a big believer in the servant leadership approach, hence the huge emphasis it gets in the Project Management Professional certification exam. 

Being the most commonly encountered leadership style in the PMP exam questions, here is everything you should know about this approach and how to adopt the servant mindset in order to easily answer related questions. 

What is Servant leadership?

Servant leadership is the practice of leading people through serving them. A servant leader’s main goal is to serve others, seeking to meet the needs of their organization and team. They share authority, prioritize the development and welfare of their team members, fulfill their needs, mentor or coach them, and support them to reach their best performance.

This style differs a lot from the traditional leadership approaches, which typically entail the sole acquisition and use of authority by the leader and place the success of the project and organization as the leader’s top priority.

An important aspect of a servant leader’s role is working on removing the barriers encountered by their team members. Project managers adopting this style take care of clearing any obstacles that can hinder the team’s work while teaching team members how to efficiently deal with such issues on their own.

The servant leader is also responsible for fostering a positive work environment where conflicts are handled fairly and professionally so that team members may carry on working and give their creative abilities their best shot.

Characteristics of a Servant Leader

According to the former president of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, Larry C. Spears, a servant leader has 10 important traits:

Listening: The servant leader must pay close attention to what others have to say. When you sincerely commit to intently listening to other people and comprehending what they are saying, you will be able to serve them more effectively.

Empathy: Servant leaders should make an effort to understand the motives and viewpoints of people around them. You can be more empathetic by looking past your own opinion, respecting what others go through or think, and handling problems with an open mind.

Healing: This quality entails helping people achieve their physical, psychological, and emotional well-being and wholeness. Servant leaders must ensure that their team works in a healthy environment that provides the necessary training, assistance, and tools to properly perform their tasks while being content with and committed to their jobs.

Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the capacity to observe oneself, reflect thoroughly on one’s feelings and actions, take into account how they can impact others, and conform to one’s ideals. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and seeking input from others can help you become more self-aware, which will eventually help you develop control over your emotions and actions.

Persuasion: Instead of using their position to control people and incite them to act, servant leaders use their persuasion skills. A servant leader explains why a particular course of action is the best option, as opposed to an authoritarian leader who simply tells the team what to do. Persuasion also means seeking to achieve group consensus when it comes to decision-making.

Conceptualization: Successful servant leaders can convey bigger goals and why they are vital to their team members by thinking beyond minor tasks. They assist their team in understanding their roles and being motivated while keeping an eye on the long-term targets and goals of the company.

Foresight: A servant leader should recognize the value of learning from past experiences and applying what they’ve learned to make better decisions in the future. They analyze what’s occurring to create an accurate image of the repercussions of their decisions. 

Stewardship: Servant leaders recognize and comprehend the significance of their responsibilities. They build and maintain the trust and confidence between team members, and, as stewards of their company’s assets and goals, they should present a good example by modeling the beliefs and behaviors they desire to see in others.

Commitment to growth: Servant leaders are dedicated to the personal and professional growth of all of their team members. They inspire their team members to become leaders themselves by creating opportunities for growth and development and providing mentorship. They also learn about the personal goals of everyone involved in their projects in order to assign them suitable tasks to help them reach those goals.

Building a community: Servant leaders foster collaboration and engagement among their teams by respecting everyone’s perspective and urging them to share their thoughts and be active contributors. Interaction in social events, through workspace design, and even non-work-related chats are strongly encouraged.

Now that you understand the different aspects of this leadership style, it’ll be easier for you to figure out how a servant leader should act in the different situations suggested in the PMP exam.