First, let me say how honored, and humbled I am, to be asked to blog for Leadership Voices. When asked to speak or write, I am always shocked that someone would want my opinion, and always afraid that I might not be worthy of the task. I do however feel very passionate about “servant” leadership, so I was excited when asked to share my thoughts on this topic, and promise I will try not to go off on any “rants”.
I think we need to define management in the context of business, and what makes it different than leadership. I always like to say, “We lead people, we manage things”. If you are trying to manage someone, you are trying to control them to get what you what you need or want. This is not very conducive to a long term growth of the employee, which means their value to the organization will stagnate. This also tends to impede their ability to contribute to the health and growth of the company by making them more of a task master instead of a thinker. It creates someone waiting to be told what to do, and how to do it, not someone who is always looking for ways to improve the company, or adding value through their unique understanding of the business. No one wants to be treated like a number, or a tool, they want to be respected, and valued.
Leadership means doing and saying the hard things. It means doing the right thing, no matter what. It means setting a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly example. It means teaching. It is the ability to bring out the greatness in others, and be willing to not take credit for doing so. Leadership ultimately means putting others before yourself, for the good of the whole, not for your ego. Notice I have not used the word servant yet? I think it is kind of redundant when put in front of leadership. Leadership is serving by its very nature. Every leader serves those whom they lead. Why else would you need a leader?
The biggest mistake I see young leaders make in business, is thinking that being the boss equals immediate respect. Nothing is further from the truth. Respect is earned, by showing your employees that you are there for them, that you care about their success. Great leaders serve down, not up. They serve the people that report to them, not the people they report too. Don’t misunderstand, you still report to someone and should respect their position of authority, this does not always mean you respect the person. Think about that, who have you worked for that managed you, and who have you worked for that led you? Who made you feel like a thing, and who made you feel like an important part of team? Serving down means taking an active interest in your teams’ individual, as well team goals. It means understanding that their success, is your success.
The ultimate leader was Jesus, he has many examples of servant leadership, here are some of the best examples “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Many people to this day still follow this great leader, and he was a humble, selfless leader.
Servant leadership is not easy. It takes effort to really humble yourself, and put others first. But the dividends it pays aren’t only in the form of profits for the business, but in the feelings of true self-worth, and respect of those that follow.