As we move along through our careers, there are many opportunities to interact with and influence those around us. The way we deal with these encounters can have a lasting impact on not only our own lives but also on those with whom we are serving. Last month we talked about taking time away from it all to focus on the ‘me’ part of this journey. Now that we understand how to make ourselves the best that we can be, let’s take a look at how we can have a meaningful and intent-driven focus on those around us.
To start, we must all be working from the same point of reference. In this instance, we are talking about Servant Leadership; a leadership style that puts the needs, growth, and well-being of followers first. Robert Greenleaf was the first to coin the phrase servant leader way back in 1970, although this concept didn’t start to take off in the masses until the early 2000s. Robert said in his essay that, “the best test (to see if you are a servant leader), and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” Notice it never said the word servant meant ‘someone who fetches coffee.’ Servant Leadership is a skill set that anyone can learn, but it takes practice and diligence in this lifestyle to truly have an impact on those we interact with daily and become a master in these practices.
Some of you may be asking, “so if we want to serve others first, why did we start this series talking about ourselves?” We did so because to truly serve others the way a servant leader should, we need to understand ourselves first and foremost. By exploring our own vices and negative attitudes towards the workplace, we can extrapolate key things that make us tick. Those things that get in our way of making sure we are putting others’ needs before our own. We are unable to truly serve those around us if all we ever think about is the next meeting we must go to or the next task on our to-do list we need to cross off. If we can look within ourselves and realize that simply saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes our way may not be the best course of action, we can then start to focus on what does matter most; the people behind the meeting or task and not the task itself.
Once we have managed ourselves and interpreted the differences between helping because they asked versus helping because we care, our journey for fulfillment will begin. While there are many views and explanations about how a servant leader should act, there have always been a few key points of interest that have stuck with me as the main points of discussion. I would like to share a few of these ideologies with you.
Privilege the person before the task
There is no greater thing as a leader than to see a group of individuals who value the company and are emotionally invested to contribute. Those individuals, when given the opportunity to do so, are excited about their work and happy to lend a hand when called upon. These workers understand that you are still ‘in charge’ but you also value their input and creativity to accomplish the tasks set for them. As the leader, don’t focus all attention on the absolute deadline and the money spent. Instead, focus your time and kindness on the well-being of your staff. Use every opportunity you have to explain the larger meaning of what you are asking people to do. It’s important that they understand the task’s purpose rather than the, “do it ‘cause I told you to” mentality from the past.
Balance focus with flexibility
We’ve all been there in some capacity. Someone worked hard for a long time on a new roll-out with the company. It’s then activated with little to no input from those that will be doing the work and the result is disastrous. On the flip side, there are instances where a younger generation of employees has a great idea for implementation, but it is met with great resistance because leaders too often self-destruct, sometimes in a tyrannical fashion, especially if it wasn’t their idea. So many leaders are unwilling or unable to innovate and adapt to meet new circumstances and changing times. It is too easy for an organization to be stubborn and inflexible because ‘the old way’ has worked for so long. To continue the journey of becoming a servant leader, you must SEE the other ideas being presented around you and be willing to give them just as much thought as your own. Maintain the 10,000-foot approach to the overall success of the business, but don’t forget to zoom in sometimes to see what is happening on the ground floor.
Serve with humility
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. There is a great difference between those two mentalities. As a leader, we need to understand that we too are human and prone to mistakes. How we handle those mistakes is what truly makes us masters of our craft. Be open, honest, and forthcoming with those around you when a mistake happens. Take ownership of that mistake and reflect on why it happened to begin with. Sometimes our best life lessons are gained from our failures more so than from our successes. It’s also too easy for the leadership team in an organization to become the Emerald City; untouchable by the working groups and unreachable by those who need guidance. Instead of hiding behind the curtain, get out there with your workers. Intentionally spend time connecting with your employees. Make eye contact and greet people in your workplace, even if you don’t know them. Find a way to say “thank you” to someone for the way they are serving either you, your company, or your team. Simply doing these tasks shows the workforce that even though by position and title you have power, you care more about them than the bottom line.
Being a servant leader is not a difficult job, but as stated before, it takes practice and the right mindset to transform the way you lead. Empower your employees and you will be able to achieve your vision. In turn, your employees will learn and grow while bringing their expertise and vision to the table without fear or contention. If you can harness the three steps above into your everyday workflow, you can help in making the world a better place.
*This is part 2 of 3 of a mini-blog series. Be on the lookout for part 3 titled “I See Us,” as we explore ways to better ourselves and those around us.
Author – Craig Andrews, InteraWorks Facilitator
InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent and energy to produce results that matter most.
We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.