The NASCIO 2017 Annual Conference is sharing best practices, key lessons, and useful strategies for state and local government technology leaders. For those unable to attend the conference, MeriTalk State & Local is sharing key lessons, in a bite-size format, from the conference. Next up: Servant leadership.

Sara Marshall (Photo: LinkedIn)

What is a servant leader? It’s someone who puts the needs of others first. A leader who practices servant leadership can empower their team to work harder, smarter, and achieve better results.

Sara Marshall is an industry adviser to state and local government for SAP, as well as a new mom. Marshall explained that everything she learned about servant leadership, she learned from her toddler.

Marshall cites individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa as her examples of servant leaders.

“This is about impacting lives and energizing the teams around you to make the biggest impact they can,” Marshall said.

At NASCIO 2017, Marshall offered up the five steps to serving others:

  • Take action: Relating this to the messes her child makes, Marshall said there will never be more hours in the day to clean up her home. Just as Marshall must take action to teach her child to clean up after himself, Marshall said that if a leader has a big idea, they just need to make it happen. The “right time” will never come along, so don’t wait for it.
  • Choose to be happy: Every morning we can choose to be happy. As Marshall said, attitude is within a leader’s control, even if life circumstances are not. A leader must choose to be happy and positive toward their team.
  • Don’t give up: Marshall said leaders must be persistent. Marshall discussed her son’s journey in learning to walk. Though he fell frequently in the beginning, he didn’t give up. Instead, he persisted through his setbacks and at 14 months took his first steps. Leaders must follow a similar philosophy, according to Marshall. Failures will happen, leaders must prepare for and accept this reality. It’s important that leaders do not give up at the first sign of failure because, frequently, that’s when the best breakthroughs happen.
  • Have empathy: Leaders should put themselves in another’s shoes. Marshall said leaders must consider how others will react when they bring a new idea to the table.
  • Accept responsibility: Leaders take responsibility. As a parent, the buck stops with her when it comes to her son. Similarly, leaders need to never shift blame onto their team. When a failure or mistake happens, leaders need to own their responsibility and work to correct problems.

As to why government leaders should care about servant leadership, Marshall says in the end it’s in their best interest.

“As a servant leader you influence people, but most importantly you get results,” Marshall said.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs