Servant leadership means managing with empathy and integrity

This month we talk again with Zaida Fazlic, director, people and culture at Taiga Building Products, the national building materials wholesaler. This is the latest instalment in our occasional series with her on the topic of leadership.

Leadership used to be tactical, about delegating and measuring performance. But today it’s much more far-reaching than that, says Zaida Fazlic.

“One principle of leadership is servant leadership, where you realize it’s not really about you, it’s about them. When your people are empowered and when they do a good job, they make you look good. Then you’re successful.”

She stresses that the root of strong leadership is competence. “You have to know the job, how to get the job done.” But, she adds, a good leader must embody “integrity, trust that your word is reliable, that you have a good moral and ethical compass. It’s those two things—it’s competency and it’s character. And that’s where emotional intelligence fits in, with your character.”

Fazlic says that not having empathy can result in drama and tension, and it drains energy from a company and its team. “One of the components of emotional intelligence is self-awareness and self-regulation, being able to manage your hot buttons.” A good leader knows what makes you tick, what triggers you. “Are you about to have an emotional blow-up? Is that really productive?”

It’s important to “push that pause button” and determine if there’s a better way to deal with that situation. “That’s the self-regulation.”

But empathy does not mean weakness or tolerating poor performance. That only enables bad habits. Instead, look for ways to empower your people. “What can you do to help people and then hold them accountable? It’s really important to hold them accountable.”