9 Ways to Recognize a Sacrificial Leader on Your Leadership Team
In a recent podcast interview with Mike Seavers, he self-identifies as a sacrificial leader. Some questions came to mind when he mentioned sacrificial leadership.
What does a sacrificial leader look and sound like, and how can you recognize a sacrificial leader on your own team? What should you know about sacrificial leadership?
Curious? This article is for you!
The Definition of a Sacrificial Leader
A clear definition of a sacrificial leader comes from Choi & Mai-Dalton, 1998, 1999.
“Self-sacrificial leadership occurs when a leader forfeits one or more professional or personal advantages for the sake of followers, the organization, or a mission. One key aim of self-sacrificial leadership is to encourage follower reciprocity.”
Leader self-sacrifice is a tool which great leaders use to motivate followers.
Following their lead, current charismatic leadership theorists have perceived self-sacrifice in leadership to be a tactic which a leader could employ to influence follower attributions of charisma.
Sacrificial Leadership vs Servant Leadership
Sacrificial leadership and servant leadership are close cousins.
“The servant-leader is a servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first.
One key aim of self-sacrificial leadership is to encourage follower reciprocity. This behavior has the added benefit of potentially moving followers toward an organizational goal; modifying their behavior; or simply persuading them to attribute legitimacy to the leader, thus allowing the leader to gain influence.”
Read the full research paper here.
Recognizing a Sacrificial Leader
There are many leadership styles. In your career you will meet leaders with different skills, different leadership styles and of course, different agendas!
Recognizing a sacrificial leader on your team isn’t always easy. However, a sacrificial leader will often push your organization to new heights and goals!
Here are 9 ways to recognize a sacrificial leader on your leadership team!
What is empathy but the ability to understand and share the feelings of others? Sacrificial leaders have empathy and recognize the feelings their team members have.
- Taking Initiative.
Leaders who take initiative are those who get things done. Sitting back and waiting for others to do the work is not sacrificial leadership.
- Developing people.
Sacrificial leaders put people above systems and above the company’s needs. The development of each individual is important to a sacrificial leader.
- Building community.
The team is everything in sacrificial leadership. Building community is therefore important and of utmost importance.
- Empowering followers.
With building community, goes empowering followers. The sacrificial leader empowers his or her team to make changes and to lead.
- Serving followers.
As much as servant leaders serve followers, so do sacrificial leaders. Serving followers and team members is an important leadership skill.
- Providing leadership.
Sacrificial leaders are true leaders, not just in name but also in action. They provide leadership to their team, their community and their followers.
- Sharing the same vision.
Sacrificial leaders share the same vision as their team members do.
- Serving their followers.
Last but not least, sacrificial leaders serve their followers, sometimes to their own detriment. They serve followers to the point it might impact their own career choices.
A Sacrificial Leader in Action
Mike Seavers says:
“What’s important to me is the idea of leaders as not in command. This might sound interesting because I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about the military and how it works, but I’m more of the sacrificial leader. Like the leader who is last to eat, because you’re constantly taking care of your team or your people that follow you. That is very core to who I am as a leader.
I’m a VP. I’m probably four or five layers removed from the engineers on the front lines. We took a break over the holidays and we had a pretty bad outage at one point. The system that we had went down and I got the notification. I was well, my team’s going to be working. I’m going to be working. I jumped on the zoom video call and I was just there. “If you are all going to be missing some of your Christmas break, I think it’s important that I’m here too, to support you in any way that I can. And it’s probably nothing I can do, but at least I can, tell you a joke or make you laugh or just be moral support, or if you need anything or you need me to go get somebody for you or, you know, like I’m here.” I tend to do things like that. My team knows that I would never ask my team to do something that I won’t do myself.”