How Servant Leadership Helps with Negotiations

How Servant Leadership Helps with Negotiations

In an article from the Program on Negotiation at the Harvard Law School Alex Green demonstrates how an individual that exemplifies a passion for being a servant leader is rewarded when involved with negotiations with his employer.  We can learn that being a servant leader or manager pays dividends not only in the area of business results, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction, but at the negotiation table too.

For those of you that know me, you know that I have written 10 books (the 10th Peaceful Resolutions coming out this month) including The Servant Manager.   I was honored twice in my career being nominated by my employees and being named an IRS manager of the year (once as a front line manager and once as a territory manager).  I attribute this to great mentors and employees.   Being a servant manager means being passionate about what you do and being there to help your employees.  From my perspective it involves three basic principles.  These are:

·         Specific praise from you as a manager or leader at least once a week for something specific. 

·         Obtaining the resources your employees need from their perspective and don’t micro manage.

·         Give employees a chance to shine in various venues.

Having learned this and practiced this I found that it works wonders in many areas.  This article from the Program on Negotiation provides an excellent example of how James Levine from the New York Metropolitan Opera used his flair as the Music Director to negotiate his place with the Opera going forward.  He has had health issues.  These resulted in having to cancel some performances.  With the love of the audience for him and the institution, it was unclear what the future had to offer for each.  Clearly concerts could not be cancelled indefinitely and Levin’s place with the Opera may need a change going forward.  Levine cared for the institution and all of the stakeholders, yet is still very creative and a great resource.  How could he negotiate his place in the Opera’s future?  First let’s define what the author of the article refers to as servant leadership.

“While this may sound like any leadership role, servant leadership places the weight of success on creating a sustainable culture among many stakeholders in ways that top-down leadership often does not. Servant leadership roles often create unique pressures, creating the need for consensus through carefully sequenced steps over long periods of time in order to adapt to the needs of many different constituencies. As a result, servant leadership hones negotiating skills that executives with outright authority might neglect.”

With Levine’s dedication and tremendous support by stakeholders the article offers insights related to negotiation skills that spill over in several areas.  The article is worth the read.  At the end of the article it states.

“Like conducting an orchestra, the hallmarks of servant leadership are often cumulative, and result from fine-tuning individual negotiating skills, whether they relate to positions and interests, timing, creative wordsmithing, offers, or concessions. Levine’s role may never be the same as it was thirty years ago, but his negotiating skills show how a lifetime of servant leadership can prepare a leader to preserve a lifetime of hard-fought gains and negotiate their own transition at the same time.”

We can all learn from this.  By listening and cultivating relationships while being a servant leader and/or manager it is possible to carry the trust learned by others along the way into productive negotiations going forward. Learn from this and these lessons by applying the lessons learned as a servant leader and/or manager in your daily activities too.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]