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Kelvin Bob-Manuel: Servant Leadership – The Power of Leading From Behind



Who are you without the title?

What do people think of you when you are not present?

Do your staff speak well of you to clients?

Do you think it’s important for employees to feel inclusive in your business?

In his book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership; Leadership expert, and inspirational speaker, John C. Maxwell, defines leadership as influence. Note the keyword here is influence.

Not a title.

Not a position.

Not having authority.

Or popularity.

Leadership is influence!

Regardless of how highly placed you are in an organization, if you cannot wield some level of influence over your staff, you are not a leader. You may be a ruler however, as is common in many African societies.

A leader with influence will not need to place fear and trepidation in the hearts of his or her staff, before they can carry out their tasks and responsibilities. Followers connect with him or her on a deeper level, in which they understand the vision he or she casts, and they are willing to do all they can to fulfil it, because they feel a part of it.

Leadership cannot be separated from service. We can say true leaders lead from behind. A servant leader will do the most for his people. He will make sure all is well with them. Before assigning them a task, he wants to be certain they are fine and can actually execute the task.

As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

How much do you know about your workers?

Do you care enough for them beyond their tasks and responsibilities?

People can always see through intentions most of the time. If you are playing nice just to get something out of them, they can always tell and see through the deceit.

This brings me to talk about the workplace culture you’re breeding as a leader. If your organization is one where your staff does not feel safe to be themselves, you may not get the best of their input regarding creativity and productivity. The best you will get is what your pay affords. But when you create a culture of transparency and openness among your staff, they will excel in their roles and add immeasurably more to the team.

Many employers often complain about the high employee turnover in their businesses. A closer look at these companies will reveal lots of inadequacies and complaints that get swept under the carpet. This can be remedied by building an environment of trust, growth, and value addition. If you do this, your people will remain loyal to you regardless of how much competitors may attempt to lure them.

Servant leadership is about following the mantra: action speaks louder than words. If your people see you act in a certain way, they’ll conform. Therefore, if you’re asking for a standard of behaviour from them, it is only right that you abide by the same. Show me, don’t tell me. This is how influence is made.

Some important questions to ask as a leader are:

How often do you check in with staff members to gauge their temperature i.e. find out their challenges (personal or on the job?)

How often do you say “well done’’ or ‘’thank you” when someone/ group makes an extra sale or works overtime?

How often do you encourage team members to look out or support one another before eventually reporting to superiors?

How often do you encourage feedback sessions i.e staff telling one another what they feel or see others doing well and what they can improve on NOT what they are not doing well? (You want to create a positive atmosphere)

How often do you encourage or welcome ideas from staff so that they feel part of the business? (Every member of staff wants to feel heard and perhaps see their ideas implemented)

Servant leadership is granting the team trust in their commitment and competence as they strive towards the organization’s shared goals; encouraging them to punch > their weight class. It is giving them permission to fail as long as they learn from the failure.

The best way to be the head is to be the leg.

The best way to lead is to support.

To be a successful leader, it is important to create a support system.

Show me don’t tell me!

Do you agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Mariusz Szczawinski |

At WAVE Academy, We simplify your search for the right employees by matching you with trained workers-saving you time & money so you can focus on growing your business. Connect with Kelvin @waveacademies on all platforms.


  1. Zee

    July 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Kelvin, great points! I worked in an establishment that felt like home (Moved out of town so I had to resign). Boss was great, he encouraged us to have conversations around his thoughts and visions for the company, it truly felt like family. However, I noticed that the staff started to take this friendliness for granted, Somehow it all became a joke to them, they became relaxed. While some of us went the extra mile to get the job done, others couldn’t be bothered. Slowly and gradually my boss withdrew and became a little more stern, stopped having conversations and was all businesslike. It broke my heart. He started restructuring when I left, and looking to get more competent hands, I hope he got it right finally. Thanks for the tips but you’ll find that Nigerians are funny people.

    • MISAN

      July 5, 2017 at 2:58 am

      I see that virtious-turned-vicious cycle happen all too often. I remember my first fulltime job in Nigeria, boss warned me of the same challenge, you give an inch, they’ll take a mile, which ended up being true. But i’ve come to realize that clear (inquiry-based) conversations to understand why people do what they do helps to clarify assumptions i am making about the other person’s actions and eliminate room for misinterpretation on either side. Once i realize the WHY behind your actions and you realize the WHY behind mine, i find that that usually gets us back on the same page / in sync about expectations…and you know what they say about happiness = reality – expectations 😉
      Great article Kelvin!!

  2. Gina

    July 3, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Great job WAVE!!!!

  3. Tamz

    July 4, 2017 at 4:01 am

    Awon Mo Abudu and co take note

  4. Waheed

    July 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Nice write up.

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