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Lead Your Team Leadership

'Servant' Leadership Style Is Best for Bosses

'Servant' Leadership Style Is Best for Bosses
Credit: Photographee/Shutterstock

Bosses who are more worried about how they can help their employees rather than how their staff can help them end up seeing better results, new research finds.

When managers put their employees' needs over their own, businesses gain improved customer happiness, increased job performance from staff members and lower turnover, according to a study recently published in the Academy of Management Journal.

Bosses who create a culture of trust, caring, cooperation, fairness and empathy, have employees who feel more valued, which prompts them to give more back to their employer and customers, said Sandy Wayne, one of the study's authors and a professor of management at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Wayne said bosses fail to get the most out of their workers when they take on a style of "do this, do that."

"A servant leader looks and sounds a lot more like, 'Is there anything I can do to help you?' or 'Let me help you ...' or 'What do you need to ...?'" Wayne said in a statement. "This approach helps employees reach their full potential." [10 Leadership Tips for Young Entrepreneurs ]

The admiration employees have for supervisors who have this type of leadership style results in more teamwork, loyalty and dedication to the business. This approach also tends to trickle down among all employees, according to Wayne.

"The employees see their leaders as role models and often mimic those qualities, creating a culture of servant leadership," Wayne said. "This serving culture drives the effectiveness of the business as a whole."

For the study, researchers collected data and surveys from nearly 1,000 employees of a national restaurant chain at 71 locations in 10 metropolitan areas. They discovered that stores with servant leaders had higher sales, as well as employees who had higher job performance, better customer service and who were 50 percent less likely to leave the company.

"There is some clear evidence that servant leadership isn't just a nice thing to do, but it actually can impact the profitability of an organization," Wayne said.

The study was co-authored by Robert Liden, a professor of management at the University of Illinois Chicago; Chenwei Liao, an assistant professor at Michigan State University ;and Jeremy Meuser, a University of Illinois Chicago Ph.D. candidate.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.