More than five decades have passed since Robert K. Greenleaf introduced the concept of servant leadership in his essay, "The Servant as Leader." Today, servant leadership is well-recognized as a highly effective approach to leadership. At FHI, we firmly embrace this philosophy. We understand that when our leaders serve our Associates, we empower them to serve our customers and partners.
However, there are still skeptics who want proof that servant leadership yields tangible results. This post details how FHI approaches servant leadership, as well as shares its profound impact on our organization’s success. Our story may not persuade the skeptics, but we know it’s the right approach for us.
Key to Greenleaf’s view is that a servant leader’s primary focus should be on investing in the personal growth and development of the organization’s people. Over the past decade, numerous studies have consistently shown that servant leaders outperform their counterparts in job performance, customer service ratings, staff retention, and overall profitability.
At FHI, we firmly believe that when individuals are supported holistically, they bring unparalleled commitment and dedication to their roles at work. Therefore, our leaders empower them to excel not only as professionals but also as parents, siblings, and role models within their communities.
From FHI’s perspective, the ultimate success of any organization hinges upon the integrity and performance of its people. That’s why the servant leadership approach aligns seamlessly with our core values and serves as a strategic business decision.
Remarkably, more than 90% of FHI’s leadership team has emerged from entry-level positions, a testament to our commitment to nurturing excellence among our Associates. The average tenure of our leaders is 12.25 years — a reflection of their unwavering dedication and unparalleled loyalty in an industry that experiences a high degree of turnover. These remarkable statistics speak volumes about our relentless devotion to our associates’ growth and development.
As part of that devotion, FHI’s senior leadership leaped into action to serve our associates after Hurricane Ian. As the Category 5 storm was making landfall in South Florida in September 2022, several of FHI’s senior leaders — including FHI’s President, Senior Vice President, and Vice Presidents — quickly developed and executed a plan to provide additional support to FHI associates in the storm’s path.
The group loaded personal trucks and trailers with a huge assortment of supplies, such as chainsaws, generators, food, water, personal hygiene products, and more. They also towed a fuel trailer and caravanned to Florida to distribute those items to associates, helping them cope with the storm’s aftermath.
FHI’s President Reid Durst said it best: “Like the supply chain, we are only as strong as our weakest link. When one of our associates suffers, we all share in their struggle. There was never a moment of hesitation from anyone on our senior leadership team in stepping up to help our people deal with Hurricane Ian’s devastation."
Servant leaders, driven by selflessness rather than self-interest, harness their positions to uplift and serve others. These top FHI executives’ actions serve as a shining testament to the power of this approach and made an indelible impact on associates as they recovered from Hurricane Ian.
Other esteemed leaders, such as Gary Ridge of WD-40 and Melissa Reiff of The Container Store, have similarly shared the benefits of servant leadership. These leaders, among countless others, reinforce that by focusing on the well-being and growth of those we lead, extraordinary outcomes will follow.
At FHI, we wholeheartedly embrace our purpose “Being entrusted to serve in ways that make a memorable and measurable difference.” This commitment is deeply engrained in our organizational culture. FHI’s workforce embodies the motto of “Hard Work Done Right,” valuing the uniqueness and inherent worth of everyone. We recognize our associates not only as contributors to our — and our customers’ — success, but also as fellow human beings deserving of genuine care and support.
Michael, an FHI team leader, asserts that “FHI changed my life.” How? By giving him an opportunity to step away from inconsistent temp jobs and into a full-time, stable role that enabled him to demonstrate his potential.
“I started as an order selector, then moved up into leadership,” he explains. “FHI gave me an opportunity that other companies never did. They saw my integrity and my servanthood.”
Supported by FHI’s servant leadership approach, Michael worked his way up to Assistant Road Crew Manager in less than two years. His positive attitude, willingness to help others, and desire to train others in best safety practices have — in turn — positioned him in a role where he now practices servant leadership every day.
“I love people, and I love having a consistent job that I can wake up and love doing on an everyday basis,” he adds.
Testimonials from FHI associates like Michael further provide evidence of the profound impact that our servant leadership commitment has on individual lives. These transformative experiences not only validate the effectiveness of our approach, but also compel us to continue walking this path.
As detailed above, the influence of servant leadership extends far beyond organizational outcomes; it shapes and transforms individual lives. At FHI, our unwavering dedication to servant leadership is grounded in the belief that it is both the right thing to do and a smart business strategy. We’ve seen its effectiveness in our people, and in our own business success. Not only does servant leadership work, but it also continues to be a cornerstone of our culture and the foundation of our future.
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