There are as many approaches to leadership as there are leaders, and not all are created equal. Robert Greenleaf wrote, “The servant-leader is servant first . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” Think about that for a minute. Servant leaders view themselves as servants of others, not kings of their castles. True leadership is service and leading others is a privilege; keeping this in mind will have a dramatic impact on how you relate to others.
As I wrote last week, leaders have the exciting opportunity to create the future. The purpose of shaping the future is to effect positive change; to serve followers, the organization, the community, and the world. Leadership is really stewardship. Leaders are entrusted with visions, people, resources, and organizations to steward for a time. It is never about the leader. It is always about others.
Take a moment to reflect on your own leadership and consider the following questions:
Do I view leadership primarily as an act of service? – Our beliefs drive our behaviors. Servant leadership is more of a mindset than it is a list of actions. The first step toward becoming a servant leader is believing that leaders are there to serve, not to be served. However, if this belief does not come easily to you, it can be cultivated by practicing servant-minded leadership behaviors (see this post for more on leadership behavior). Try it! And take note of how your people (and their performance) are impacted.
When is the last time I offered to help those I lead? – Leaders who never offer to help are unlikely to be effective. Team members need leaders who give challenging assignments and set lofty goals. This is how people are developed and great things are accomplished. However, teams also need leaders who are willing to pitch in and help when the going gets tough. Helping out will not only ease the burden during crunch time, it will also build community in the team. And, community is critical to high performance.
Do my team and I work toward a clear and compelling vision that is bigger than us? – Having a clear vision gives you, as the leader, a destination toward which to move. It gives you and those you lead a purpose that goes far beyond achieving personal success. With a compelling vision in place, the focus is not on individual leaders or team members, but on a common goal.
Do you see yourself as a servant first? If so, great! Hopefully this post is a good reminder for you. If not, may I challenge you to think differently about leadership? Find an opportunity this week to serve or invest in someone on your team. Leadership is Service!