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How To Be A Servant Leader On Software Projects

how to be a servant leader

As a servant leader, you can help other people that work with you so they're more fulfilled, and inspire them on your software projects.

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Do you want to help the other people that work with you so they are more fulfilled, and get an opportunity to inspire them?

Motivations To Consider

Let’s start with some of the motivations I think it’s important to consider if you want to go about servant leadership.

Improve Quality Of Delivery

Ultimately, however you serve people still needs to result in improving the quality of delivery. While we’ll focus on how to be a servant leader on software projects by serving the needs of others, this fact is important to still keep front and center.

Support Career Goals Of Colleagues

As you go about serving others, you might adopt a motivation to see others’ careers advance.

This doesn’t mean you stop caring about what happens to you, but that you share the burden for those around you being recognized.

You Don’t Need A “Leadership” Title

You don’t need an “official” leadership title to be a servant leader on software projects. You may be the boss of your colleagues already or not, either way, the goal is to inspire and help others – regardless of your job title.

Don’t Rely On Skills To Inspire

As you attempt to lead others by serving them, you may need to shift from relying on demonstrating how skilled you are as a primary motivator. Instead, utilize some of the other tips in this video to be a servant leader.

Avoid “Siding” With Individuals

Be wary of siding with individuals. Do whatever you can do to avoid being sucked into political games, or disputes between people on your team. This doesn’t mean to not have empathy – far from it, empathy is crucial. Rather, don’t be an ear to lend when someone wants to criticize someone else and join in on it with them.

Detach From Personal Advancement

You may find detaching from your personal advancement helpful if you want to be a servant leader on software projects. The moment you start considering whether your efforts are advancing your own career, conflict can arise that makes it harder to take altruistic actions.

Tips For Better Servant Leadership

So what are some of the things you could start doing immediately to demonstrate your desire to be a servant leader?

Show More Than You Tell

The first thing I’d recommend is to show more than tell. When you delegate work or information to others, taking the time to show them how its done will go further than just conveying the steps. You won’t always be able to do this, but err on the side of demonstration whenever possible.

Get To Know Colleagues Personally

Next I’d recommend you get to know your colleagues personally. More than just what technical or other work related skills they prefer, get to know what makes them tick personally. This will make it easier to support them and their needs and desires.

Organize Opportunities To Socialize

If you can organize opportunities to socialize with your immediate group, you will show your colleagues that you care about them as people and are willing to share of yourself outside of work. Don’t rely on company happy hours and events as the sole way for your immediate colleagues to get together.

Recognize Individual Contributions

It’s important to recognize individual contributions, and not attribute them always to the entire team. When providing status or communicating “wins” of the team, put a name to each gain and give props freely to those who did the work.

Advocate For Solutions To Colleagues’ Pain

Listen for pain and advocate for solutions. If you get to know your colleagues personally, they will share their struggles and whatever you can do to ease it or help shift the burden to someone else will help them be more fulfilled and effective.

Advocate For Growth Of Your Colleagues

As a servant leader, don’t rely on people with explicit management titles to be the only ones to look out for your colleagues careers. To avoid seeing great people you’ve built good relationships leave, do what you can to remove roadblocks and enable them to grow. If they want to leave because they aren’t getting the opportunities they need, support them in that as well.

Get Excess Capacity To Support Serving

You will need to negotiate excess capacity in your schedule so you have the time needed to be an effective servant leader. This may be difficult depending on the management style of your organization, but if you can do it – it’s well worth it.

Struggle With Them

It says more about you when others see how you help during times of stress than when things are going according to plan. Share in the struggles with your team. If you really want to demonstrate the attributes of a servant leader, this is an easy one.

Be As Transparent And Open As Possible

Though this can be controversial, I believe servant leaders should do what they can to be as transparent with their colleagues as possible. If you wish to serve others above the company, part of that is being open and honest with them about information you know. Do not divulge information you’ve been asked to keep private, as this is being dishonest – but I encourage you to get permission to be as open as possible with your colleagues from whoever you report to if necessary.

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On YouTube and all major podcast networks, Jayme shares teamwork and leadership strategies, guidelines for healthy company culture, and stories about real projects so you can have a sustainable career in the software industry.

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Jayme Edwards

A family man and veteran of nearly 40 software projects, Jayme experienced many wins and losses over his career as an architect and consultant.

Now he's coaching software developers, managers, and business owners to overcome challenges in the IT industry - so they keep growing.