by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch

Many of us feel that we’re stretched to capacity at work and have nothing left to give. But according to a recent Gallup poll, 70% of the workforce is either “actively disengaged” or “not engaged,” meaning there are millions of professionals who have more effort that they could give if they felt motivated and inspired. Gallup estimates that this costs billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.

We believe that one of the ways managers can tap into this discretionary effort is the practice of service-based leadership. We learned about this approach, which was first introduced to businesses by Robert K. Greenleaf, while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. The basis of service-based leadership is prioritizing your team’s needs before your own. As Marine officers, we always ate last, ensuring others had food on their plates before ours were filled. During down time, we kept our teams busy with training opportunities so they could broaden their skills, which also curtailed complacency. When it was dark and cold in the field, we made a point of being present on the lines (not hiding out in a warm tent) to show our teams we were right there with them. Through our actions, we demonstrated that we were willing to go without food, free time and comfort to ensure our people knew they were supported.

The result? Our teams felt cared for and valued, and they demonstrated their loyalty through their initiative and engagement.

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