The Emotionally Agile Leader is sometimes a Servant Leader

Thoughts from my recent workshop on Servant Leadership

I had the chance to speak to a small ballroom full of energetic and enthusiastic marketing professionals last Friday. I flew out to San Diego, CA to present a workshop on Servant Leadership to the Society of Marketing Professional Services at their annual Build Business Conference (SMPSBB18). It was awesome! And I hope they invite me back next year.

Is there a connection between emotional agility and servant leadership?

Yes! Emphatically yes!

I began my presentation with a travel story about an experience that I had in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia a few years ago. I wrote about it in an article entitled, Knowing Your Place. Click that link if you want the full story. But, here is a summary:

It was the last night of my stay at the very luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Apparently, someone had alerted the General Manager that I would be leaving very early the following morning. So, he came to my dinner table in the dining room to introduce himself and to say “Thank you” for my extended stay It had been a 3 and a half week stay at his hotel. It was soon after our brief discussion ended that I saw an extraordinary example of true servant leadership.

A woman was struggling with a large balloon bouquet and a suitcase. In addition to the most senior person in the hotel, there were several other general staff in the very near vicinity. They probably saw her as well. But they did nothing. And then he did it.

Knowing his place in the hierarchy, he was at the pinnacle, he graciously walked over to her and picked up her bag and carried it to the bell captain while she completed her check out routine.

That is what he did. He carried the bag himself. I watched it all happen. At least twice he could have snapped his finger and had one of the junior hospitality staff take the bag. He could have very subtly caught the eye of one of them and asked them to do the menial task of carrying the bag. And he would have been right to do so.

After all, he was the most senior person and outranked everyone else on the staff. His place was at the top. I wonder if he started his hotel career as a bellboy. I wonder if he ever thinks of those early days.

My guess is that he has not forgotten his more humble beginnings. My guess is that he has always had a servant’s heart. My guess is that it was his focus on the patrons of the places that he has worked has been the thing that has propelled his career. He has never lost sight of the customer. Even from his place at the top.

What is the connection?

All of the research that I did to prepare for the workshop at SMPSBB18 started to align with many of the principles that I discuss in The Emotionally Agile Leader. I read articles that had titles like “99 Characteristics of Servant Leadership” and “42 Secrets of Servant Leadership” and  “52 Things a Servant Leader Does”. The numbers are exaggerated. But, you have all seen articles online like that. But, once I started getting past the title and into the material, I started to see some things that seem to have a lot to do with emotional agility and leadership.

These articles consistently had some words to share on topics such as:

  • Awareness
  • Observation
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Encouragement
  • Building other servant leaders
  • Mentoring

Don’t these topics have a lot to do with being an Emotionally Agile Leader? I covered all of these in one way or another in the pages of my book that will soon be released.  I cover the issue of awareness and listening in the chapter on Introspection. I cover the topic of observation in the chapter actually entitled, Observant. And the topics of building other leaders and mentoring has a special place in the chapter entitled, Proliferative. And mentoring has a special dedicated section in the Appendix. And empathy and encouragement are found throughout the pages of the book.

What is the message when we connect the dots?

I think the message is that if we want to be an effective leader, we must master some of the skills that are the hallmarks of servant leadership. We must be willing to carry a suitcase when we encounter someone who is struggling.

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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