blog articles

Servant-leadership: The Decision to Serve

Mini Mind Maps decision to serve

Ser­vant-lead­er­ship is the counter-intu­itive way to build prof­itable rela­tion­ships with the peo­ple who mat­ter most. But most peo­ple don’t know what it is. So let’s cut through the quick-fix and get to what makes it so chal­leng­ing.

Everyone’s a Leader These Days

Every­one seems to think they’re a leader. The term has almost entire­ly lost its mean­ing. It seems that if you’re a deci­sion-mak­er of any kind, you’re called a leader. But what hap­pens when a small-time, JV soc­cer coach at a small school has the hearts and minds of his play­ers, while the CEO down the street can’t seem to keep good tal­ent?

A Lack of Humility Kills Momentum

This prob­lem is made worse by the fact that lead­ers can’t get any momen­tum, being under­cut by poor lead­er­ship: poor trust, con­fu­sion and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion with­in the ranks and process­es that can’t seem to get going or be main­tained.

And on top of that, the man­agers they trust just seem to leave, while the worst seem to stay.

Servant-Leadership: A Choice to Serve

Ser­vant lead­er­ship solves this prob­lem. But it’s not a frame we can adopt sim­ply by lik­ing the sound of it. It’s not like lik­ing a band. It’s a dis­ci­pline you adopt and main­tain in your life: a choice to serve oth­ers, even when it costs you.

First, let’s talk about what it’s not:

  • It’s not get­ting walked on by those around you. When you’re focus­ing every­one on a big­ger pur­pose, you don’t get walked on; you help oth­ers under­stand how they can help achieve that larg­er pur­pose.
  • It’s not a PR effort where you claim to be a ser­vant-leader, but secret­ly run your own game. If you’re fak­ing this kind of thing, everyone’s gonna know it. It’s not the kind of thing you can fake eas­i­ly.
  • It’s also not hoard­ing infor­ma­tion. It’s being more focused on the goal than any­one else, so that you can sup­port them in their jobs…creating excel­lence all around you.

What it is:

  • Lis­ten­ing not just to things you want to hear, or that you expect, but also to those things you don’t want to hear, that you don’t know the answer for, that put a bee in your bon­net.
  • Speak­ing, but speak­ing the truth. It some­times hurts feel­ings, and the blame it comes back and lands on you. But you don’t back down, sim­ply because telling the truth would cost you.
  • Plan­ning, but with align­ment in mind…making sure every­one is aimed toward the big goal. That means that every part and per­son with­in your orga­ni­za­tion is caus­ing peo­ple to grow. If it’s not, they shouldn’t be there, or your process must change. Or maybe you’re in the wrong busi­ness.

Who knew that serv­ing and lov­ing oth­ers is what life and work are all about? Well, actu­al­ly, it’s a way of life that goes back thou­sands of years. Which goes to show, you don’t need a new­fan­gled the­o­ry writ­ten by a Sil­i­con Val­ley tech mogul to find this teach­ing.

Your Turn: Tell Me a Story

Care to share? Tell a sto­ry about how strength­en­ing your­self will change your orga­ni­za­tion, even those around you, includ­ing your boss. Or maybe you’re a skep­tic, in which case, why not share your skep­ti­cism? Because truth just allows us to go deep­er into under­stand­ing.