Originally published on July 7, 2023 via the Pittsburgh Business Times

By Carlos T. Carter

Recently as I was leaving the Sewickley Valley YMCA, I noticed the Y’s CEO Trish Hooper enthusiastically sweeping the front entrance. When I saw her, I remarked, “Now that is servant leadership in action!” She explained that she worked on the holiday to allow some of the team members to have the day off. She was just doing her part to help the team.

I always knew Trish was a great leader, but seeing her humility in action was refreshing and inspiring. Imagine if more leaders were willing to roll up their sleeves to get dirty?

This concept of “we are all in this together” and “nothing is beneath me” as a leader is impactful and exemplifies servant leadership. This type of leadership communicates to the team that they are important and their voices matter. Leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done are the leaders we need.

Many leaders have it twisted and believe that everyone is there to serve them. However, the best leaders serve others.

Here are some tips to better serve your team:

  • Empathy and kindness: The best leaders are kind and compassionate people. They are not only committed to creating impacts, but making sure their employees are valued and supported. Like grandma used to say, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care!”
  • Model the way: The best leadership is leadership in action. Companies and HR departments are great at coming up with inspiring values, but if they are not lived out by leadership,your employees will not respect the leadership or take them seriously. No one is perfect and grace is always appropriate, but we must strive to do better; otherwise the values will not be worth the ink they are printed on.
  • Serve the people: Find ways to demonstrate to employees that they matter (you can ask them what would work for them).
  • Listen: It is critical for all leaders to listen. Listening is not just doing a survey and parking it on the shelf. Yes, it is doing surveys and implementing ideas. It is also walking around and talking to employees, looking them in the eye, being present and learning about them, their families, aspirations, etc.
  • Respect: Treat your employees the way they want to be treated. Don’t be condescending.Don’t only give them a seat at the table, but give them a vote to decide what is on the menu!

These tips are a few things that have helped amplify my leadership. If you are a current or aspiring leader, reflect on ways you can better serve others. When you put your servant leadership into action, you will inspire people to follow your leadership and as a result you will be able to move your mission and organization forward. Don’t be afraid to get dirty!

Carlos T. Carter is president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.