Siegal: How to Be a Servant Leader

by Kyle Clapham

As contractors how can we find examples to help us run and grow high-performing contracting businesses? I believe that we have to bring servant leadership into our businesses. This is a philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve rather than the employees serving the leader. Here are a few examples of how you can implement this into your business tomorrow.

“How do I handle a top performer who is negative and lowers team morale?”

Whenever a salesperson goes negative, as sales managers it is our responsibility to help them regain positive expectancy. Regardless of how good we become at our sales role, we will still lose more times than we win. Most of us need encouragement and support when we experience several “no sale” situations in a row. The top sales managers are servant sales managers. They serve their sales team in order to achieve the maximum of their capabilities.

As a servant sales manager, our first job is to determine why the salesperson is negative. Oftentimes, a top performer becomes disruptive to get our attention. If they don’t feel special or recognized, psychology dictates they will change their behavior until they get your attention.

As the servant sales manager, we need to make sure the negative top performer understands the good of the team comes before the good of any one individual. If negative behavior continues, and we can’t turn it around, we have no option but to replace any negative salesperson. We must recognize it is also good for the negative salesperson because it provides the opportunity to find work where each can be positive.

Nothing diminishes our credibility faster or keeps more good people down than when we retain a negative salesperson just because they make the numbers. It is a daunting task to replace a top producer, but we need to recognize the effect of a negative salesperson on the rest of the stakeholders. If we could measure the impact of their negativity, we would find it costs us more than the effort to replace the negative salesperson.

“What is a main character flaw that can stop me from building a great team?”

One of the biggest is pride. It is impossible to build a great team if we have personal pride to the exclusion of humility because if we’re not humble, we can mistakenly think it’s all about us and won’t see the need or feel the urgency to invest our time and energy in others.

As a servant manager, we observe a TQM (total quality management) meeting without sharing our thoughts. Sitting back and observing is not in conflict with our responsibility to serve and add value.

We need to give our stakeholders the room to make mistakes and grow from their experiences, as well as allow them to achieve their own successes because that builds self-esteem, which builds winners. Our role as servant managers is to serve and help build winners, not show how much we know.

“How important is it that I have personal charisma to lead my team effectively?”

Charisma is one of the most overrated aspects of effective leadership. While it is true that a follower will sooner feel leadership from someone extroverted and gregarious, over the long term our personal character and competence is much more effective.

As servant managers, the better we model the values of “do the right thing” and “seek to achieve 100 percent client satisfaction,” the more apt we are to attract high achievers. Managers who take a genuine interest in their stakeholders and put others first develop a powerful charisma that draws others to them.

This is why servant managers are so effective. The more we help others get what they want, the more we get what we want.

“I’m just starting out in building a team. Where do I begin?”

As servant managers we must train, care about, help set expectations, give feedback, hold accountable and learn how to motivate all our stakeholders. We must also identify our future peak performers and customize a plan to mentor and develop them more closely.

Determine what they must learn and accomplish to reach the next performance level and together create a roadmap or career path to get them there. The extra time and attention we invest in our future peak performers will be leveraged and returned many times over. We have all heard the term “ready, willing and able.” To become peak performers, our stakeholders need all three.

You have probably seen some who are ready and willing, but they aren’t able. They’ve reached their peak, and their ambition exceeds their competence. Others are able but aren’t willing. They’re happy just the way they are.

As servant sales managers, we will always encounter the know-it-all salesperson or the self-serving salesperson just out for themselves. They are not willing. As a servant manager, we must choose the ready, willing and able, so everyone gets to the next level. We don’t help people by doing for them what they should be doing for themselves. QR

Scott Siegal is the owner of Maggio Roofing in Washington, D.C., and also owns the Certified Contractors Network. You can learn more about CCN by going to the website

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