According to Robert Greenleaf, conceptualization is a key characteristic of Servant Leadership. It is the ability to create a future-oriented concept that provides vision and mission. What is the result for employees? Finding purpose in their work.
Servant Leaders Conceptualize in Community.
Conceptualization does not occur in a vacuum. Servant leaders invite ownership to help shape vision. In order to do that, servant leaders approach relationships on a long-term basis. True servant leaders do not use others to meet personal goals. Rather, they equip others to realize corporate goals. This means early in a relationship, formal and informal expectations are clarified through shared negotiation.
Servant leaders have the ability to conceptualize the inevitability of crises. That means while relationship expectations are formed, a process for dealing with broken expectations is outlined. For the manager, this may be as simple as, “I have an open door policy,” or “Retaliation is not in our vocabulary.”
Servant Leaders Nurture Conceptualization in Self and Others.
As a leader, how often do you dream about the future of your organization? Do you keep those dreams to yourself? Only share them with a select few? Or do you “dream out loud” with everyone in your organization while providing consistent opportunities for them to do the same?
Servant leaders do not dream and tell people to dream the same dream or else. Instead, they dialogue shared dreams as a means of weaving a collective narrative. In such environments, phrases like, “I hate my job” are rarely, if ever, heard.
Servant Leaders Remain Calm, Even in Crisis.
“A mark of a leader, an attribute that puts him [or her] in a position to show the way for others, is that he [or she] is better than most at pointing the direction… the leader can articulate [the vision] for any who are unsure.”
Crises can certainly pull a team together, but they also have a tendency to exacerbate lack of surety. A servant leader’s ability to be a non-anxious presence, even in the midst of crisis, is a testimony to their commitment to vision. They see the future, anticipate obstacles, and refuse to abandon ship at the first sign of a leak in the boat.
This is not to say servant leaders will take an organization to its grave rather than change the vision. Conceptualization is exercised consistently as a means of evaluating integrity of the vessel and seaworthiness for the journey ahead.