Why You Need Servant Leadership in Your Business

Updated on 25 February 2016

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“People should not go into business to make money. They should go into business to serve the needs and wants of people,” says Ian Fuhr.

As unconventional an entrepreneur as one can get, Fuhr’s career spans the spectrum, from bringing Kmart, American chain of discount department stores, to South Africa at the age of 22, to founding an industrial theatre company.

Serial entrepreneur and business thought leader, Fuhr, is also the founder and CEO of cosmetic and beauty franchise Sorbet.

Established in 2005, Sorbet currently has 151 stores dotted across South Africa’s major towns such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban. The brand has just recently opened two stores in London, with future plans to branch out into other African countries such as Botswana and Namibia.

Speaking in a Moneyweb and FNB Business Leadership series, Fuhr says for any business to achieve success, one of the important principles to get right is servant leadership.

Fuhr share his thoughts on leadership and why he believes entrepreneurs should shift their focus from being bosses to being servants to both their customers and their employees.

People before profits

Servant leadership, Fuhr says, is putting the needs of your customers first.

“And if they do that well, they will ultimately make money. That is the key. Create a culture that focuses on people and service and puts people before profits and service before reward, then I think you have a chance at success.”

Serving the people who are serving the people

Fuhr says if you are a businessman or manager, the answer to the question: ‘Who do you serve?’ should be ‘I work for my staff’, and if you are an employee, the answer should be ‘I work for my customers’.

“If you are not answering those then you are on the wrong track.”

Who’s the boss

“The boss principle – ‘I am your boss, you must respect me’ – is still very much alive. Anyone who says that still doesn’t understand what respect means,” says Fuhr.

He says demanding respect or trust from your employees is a sure sign that you cannot lead people.

“What we need to understand is that servant leadership is about creating a working environment in which people feel comfortable, they feel well-treated, they feel dignified, they feel a sense of self-esteem and self-worth and they go out there and they do their best because you have created the environment in which they can do that.”

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