Environmental Services Leadership

How to Build a Servant Leader Mentality

By Terrance Newson, Vice President of Environmental Services

Servant leadership is a philosophy designed on the ideals that the main objective of a leader is to serve. This is derived from Robert K Greenleaf’s published essay where he coined the phrase “the servant leader is servant first.” This may seem backwards in some respects, but the ultimate purpose of a leader is to make sure everyone is equipped to do their best work so that the team can be successful. With this leadership style, a leader is able to build a supportive environment that enriches the workplace dynamic and positively impacts the overall organization. It takes time and focus to truly establish a servant leadership mentality, but the following points will give you a good idea of where to start.

EVS-Public Areas-38Look for Gaps Where You Can Grow

Being a leader means finding areas where you can grow to better support and build your team. Focus on an area of opportunity that you have for yourself and set a goal to improve it. For example, every year I reflect on what I could do better to support my team, and I set a goal to equip myself with the skills needed to achieve it. Last year, I decided I needed to work on my communication techniques, so I attended a three-day public speaking seminar. This helped me to better organize my thoughts and modes of communication so that during my daily interactions, whether on a call, in a meeting, or leading a team huddle, I could effectively communicate so my audience could understand. Gaps shouldn’t be seen as weaknesses, but instead as opportunities to grow professionally so that you can better support others.

Take the Blame and Work Through It Together

One of the biggest things to remember is that as a leader it all starts with you and all stops with you. It doesn’t matter who made the mistake on the team—it should be seen as a collective mistake that the team works through together. Leaders should be the problem fixers and show their team that they are not on a lone island and there is someone to support them. This method of problem solving also provides training opportunities, allowing the leader to expand on best practices and tips so that the same mistake can be avoided in the future.

Motivate the People and Stay Resilient

Leaders must motivate the individuals around them. Even during rough days or weeks, they must stay focused and positive. A leader that exhibits resiliency and a sense of purpose will impact the teams’ spirit and work ethic. This effectively sets the example that even through difficult times, you can successfully navigate the situation without having the issues affect your work or attitude.

Focus on the Small Wins

Servant leadership is a mentality. It’s like having a kind of tunnel vision and being able to navigate through the noise and fire throughout the day. One way to do this is by taking the time to focus on the small tasks at hand. Write down daily goals, and when you accomplish an item, scratch it off. This will make you feel successful and help you realize that each small achievement is going to benefit someone, whether that is a team member, partner, or fellow manager. Everything a leader does sets an example for the team and provides an opportunity to better support them. Having daily goals is about small wins to keep you motivated.

Learn more about Terrance's leadership style by viewing his Leadership Spotlight


Terrance Newson began his career with HHS in 2008 as an assistant director of environmental services. Throughout his tenure with the company he has been promoted multiple times. He currently serves as the vice president of EVS where he oversees facility operations throughout the central division. Newson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Tougaloo College.