Traditional leadership archetypes often rely on ideas of strength and hierarchy. These symbols may use military images that cast work relationships as a dynamic between commander and troops. The lion and the king are both leaders who rule by virtue of superior standing, coming from noble birth or extraordinary ability. But leadership symbols can also draw on ethics of collaboration and cooperation, speaking less to the egos of individuals and more to the power of working together.
Although it may seem paradoxical on the surface to lead by serving, Innolect says the symbol of the servant leader represents a powerful transformation in which the leader plays a supporting role rather than being at the forefront. The manager who insists on running an office as a well-orchestrated whole according to a predetermined plan may get things done smoothly, but this approach won’t empower employees to make their own decisions and act responsibly and creatively. By contrast, a servant leader builds the confidence and skill of coworkers, setting them up for autonomy and success. This humble approach improves morale and motivation, encourages innovation and furthers ongoing learning.
Few leaders step into fully formed enterprises and run them according to predetermined systems. Business enterprises are often built from humble beginnings and require ongoing maintenance and repair. Leaders who work as builders bring humility to the process of running their organizations and are willing to delve into the nuts and bolts of sorting out problems, according to the Harvard Business Review. They improve the structure on a foundation that includes both successes and failures.
A sportsmanship approach to running a business encourages collaboration while it builds the skills of workers, both as individuals and as a team. Like the servant leader, the coach’s job is to bring out the best in each member of the team. The Globe and Mail points out that a successful coach, like a successful manager, knows each worker’s strengths and weaknesses. Thoughtful coaching involves drawing on individual skills and traits in the appropriate situations, which challenges team members to expand their comfort zones and build new capabilities.
Leadership is a creative endeavor, using the medium of staff personalities and talents to build something greater than the sum of its parts. Like an artist, a successful leader has a vision. This perspective may be difficult for coworkers to initially understand, but it will become clear over time with effective communication and collaboration. Similarly, an artist makes sense of a landscape, drawing connections between seemingly disparate sections and presenting these connections in clear and unique ways.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.