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Mental health: Servant leadership, workplace mental wellbeing

Servant leadership has been found to influence the work environment positively and supports mental wellbeing in the workplace.

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Servant leadership is a leadership approach where a leader serves their team members and promotes personal development.

Servant leadership has been found to influence the work environment positively and supports mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Principles of servant leadership — Are you a servant leader?

  1. Are you self-aware? Are you able to recognise and regulate your own thoughts, emotions and behaviours?
  2. Are you a good listener? Do you pay attention to your team members when they speak? Do you focus and listen to understand rather than listen to respond?
  3. Do you care about the individuals in your team beyond their deliverables and targets? Are you empathic to their challenges and problems?
  4. How well do you facilitate interpersonal functioning, conflict resolution and healing among your team members?
  5. Are your team members growing or have they become stagnant in terms of their own development?
  6. Do you strive to build your team members and foster a culture of continuous self-improvement and development?
  7. How humble are you? Can you accept feedback on your leadership style and leadership abilities?

What are the challenges of implementing a servant leadership approach?

Despite the demonstrated positive effect of servant leadership on workplace mental wellbeing, it can be challenging to implement.

It takes time to invest in relationship building and shaping workplace culture.

Competing urgent interests may overtake this non urgent yet important process in shaping workplace culture.

The impact on mental wellbeing and ultimately on productivity may be difficult to demonstrate initially as well.

The servant leadership approach must come from a place of genuine desire to serve others which is not easily “trained into” someone.

A servant leadership approach may be seen as weakness by other leaders and by some employees and firm boundaries are needed to avoid abuse and exploitation.

There also maybe resistance and difficulties adjusting to this approach in certain social cultures.

What is the impact of servant leadership on workplace mental wellbeing?

  1. Servant leaders foster a supportive, psychologically safe work environment that can help employees thrive.
  2. Servant leadership helps people feel valued, respected and cared for.
  3. Servant leadership makes people feel empowered and autonomous
  4. Servant leaders inspire a sense of purpose and meaning in the workplace.
  5. Servant leadership fosters personal and professional growth and a culture of continuous self-improvement.
  6. Servant leaders know their team members, their strengths and weaknesses and guide them into positions that are a good psychological fit.
  7. Servant leadership encourages work life balance and where possible work life integration.

How can we encourage servant leadership for better mental wellbeing in the workplace?

  1. Emotional intelligence training for supervisors, managers and leaders to improve emotional self-awareness and self-regulation
  2. Training in mental health first aid to improve psychological responsiveness to distress
  3. Encourage leaders to deliberately demonstrate genuine humility, compassion and empathy to help create a new culture.
  4. Incorporating servant leadership into the organisation’s missions and values and key expectations from all employees.
  5. Encourage evaluation and feedback on servant leadership qualities to promote self-improvement.
  6. Recognise and reward leaders who are demonstrating servant leadership

If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

  • Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback on WhatsApp: +263777727332

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