As a business owner, you are told, “it’s lonely there”, “you wear lots of hats”. But again, no one sent you that memo. And most owners don’t get a degree in business to open their place. If you find you need a refresher in your role as an owner, then stay tuned. That’s what we’re talking about, here and now! In particular we’re going to focus on Servant Leadership. I’ll share three examples, and you can dig deeper in the links.
Before we start on that, here’s reminder on servant leadership.
Servant leadership according to Wikipedia, is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader's main focus is the thriving of their company or organizations. A Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership inverts the norm, which puts the customer service associates as a main priority. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. As stated by its founder, Robert K. Greenleaf, a Servant Leader should be focused on "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?" When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they benefit as well as their employees in that. Their employees acquire personal growth, while the organization grows as well due to the employees growing commitment and engagement. Since this leadership style came about, a number of different organizations have adopted this style as their way of leadership. According to a study done by Sen Sendjaya and James C Sarros, Servant Leadership is being practiced in some of the top ranking companies today, and these companies are highly ranked because of their leadership style and following.
Zingerman’s wasn’t always popular and wasn’t always a community of 9 businesses. Ari Zingerman started the deli with Paul Saginaw. They could not have known where they were going when they started, but once they got a whiff of running the deli, they became intentional about where they were going in 5 years. They were also intentional about not becoming a franchise, which was the business de jour in 1986. That intention defined how they liked being thought of as a boss, how they wanted teamwork to pervade their business. It translated their philosophy studies at University of Michigan into a method to keep a certain level of equality (not
hierarchy) among the team. This is now a model for their version of Servant Leadership. Their website, their books, and you tube can fill you in, if you need a snippet of how they do it. It becomes their method of service and customer engagement. Their team have been spurred on by the training to engage with each guest in a repeatable set of steps.
If I sound like a broken record, it is because I have seen and worked with companies who have embraced this philosophy, and it has created positive growth. Equally, those who don’t understand the philosophy are either in a holding pattern or out of business.
Union Square started as a single restaurant, on the square, with not more than a hope and a dream. Danny Myers went from there, and has created a sophisticated network of successful restaurants—some under USHG’s umbrella, and more who have ascribed to Danny Myers thinking and customer service. The link (above) has links to many restaurants. They may not share as much as Zingerman’s does on their website, but you only have to read one, two or more of Danny Myers’ books to ignite your passion for serving your guests in a joyful, intentional and repeatable method.
Don’t know how to be the best version of an owner, that is understandable. Start tuning into servant leadership. There are many examples of success—in books, audiobooks, you-tube, and websites. Find what version works for you, and start putting ideas into action. Look at the photo below, which simply encourages you, “begin where you are”, and you will find your path.