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the “servant leadership”, a boss with small onions

Ihe atmosphere is solemn on this Monday morning, in the meeting room of an SME in marketing: five desks are installed at the back of the room, from where five project managers propose a battle plan for the week, with blows of posters and slogans. Slumped in his chair in a corner of the room, next to the other employees, a slightly older man discreetly takes care of the balance of speaking time, slips a few words here and there, to move forward in the agenda… He is none other than the director of the company.

Will he vote for the best project? Surely not, no one will get out of here until the five have agreed, and he will not intervene. Even in the event of a conflict, he will not take sides for fear of disfavoring or frustrating certain employees, and he will choose “laissez-faire”…

By granting them his trust, this manager is simply at the service of his collaborators: he shows “serving leadership”an oxymoron that can be translated as “servant leadership” Where “helpful entertainment”. The concept is to the credit of Robert Greenleaf, pioneer of management in the American group AT&T: “The best leader is first a servant”can we read in his work The Servant as Leader (1970). The latter postulates that a leader “leader first” would tend to privilege his personal interests, which would be detrimental to the performance of the organization.

More a state of mind than a method

WeMaintain, a company specializing in elevator maintenance, has converted: “We wanted to cut with the authoritarian managementremembers co-founder Tristan Foureur. It’s more a state of mind than a method: it consists of listening to people, showing empathy, being the opposite of micromanagement. » The 150 employees are divided into self-constituted teams, which themselves define their management and their missions.

Liberated company, inverted pyramid, horizontal management, holacracy… This epinal image of the leader who does not really “leader” turns in a loop, but it is clear that the end of the leaders is not for tomorrow.

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Moreover, if he no longer decides and no longer animates anything, does the boss “with little onions” still have a reason to come to work? The blues of the little chef dispossessed of his authority only lasts for a while, assures Tristan Foureur: “For some managers, letting go can take time, but over time they realize that their teams perform better when they have the freedom to manage their budget. »

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