1) A devoted follower; 2) A person willing to serve another; 3) A person who serves or attends to the requirements of another.
Accept that servant leadership is the ultimate leadership. When leaders are servants to a vision, rather than to themselves or their agenda, it opens up the possibility to attain lofty goals and work in a soul-inspiring setting. This emphasis shift in a company’s leadership model creates power and authority structures that breed confidence and encourage people.
Avoid being egocentric or self-serving. Indeed, in many historic acts of leadership that would fit this model, it was not clear the act of leadership itself promised much reward for the one leading. Consider Martin Luther King Jr. – an oft-cited model of strength. His utter devotion to the cause and unceasing efforts to change the civil state of an entire race is servant leadership in action.
Articulate the vision’s benefits clearly and engagingly. Like Martin Luther King Jr., the servant leader has a “dream” – a dream that many can naturally share and then follow into a better future. There was never much debate, except among King’s enemies, about his right to lead. He personified the cause. Nor is there concern about credibility; the servant leader’s acts are pure of intent and selfless.
Come at vision “pure of heart”. As an organization, ensure that your vision’s very existence does not have unintended negative consequences on the environment or world health. It is about balancing profits with philanthropy. The concept is simple: the vision must be balanced with a sense of not being promoted in one’s best interests alone.
Insist that service be demonstrated by all leaders. Organizations must find ways to ensure that all those endorsed as leaders truly exhibit commitment to the cause. Leaders must understand the cause is always more important than self-interest. Wayward leaders, no matter how skilled otherwise, cannot be allowed to destroy achievement of the vision through misaligned behaviour.
Stop tolerating behaviour from leaders contrary to the greater interest. It is the single biggest organizational risk. This is why people breathe a huge sigh of relief when senior managers boldly declare that actions incongruent with stated values will not be tolerated. Terminating those individuals’ employment sends unequivocal signals, while condoning unacceptable practices destroys hearts and shatters morale.
Install leaders who have earned the right to lead. Only appoint leaders who have demonstrated credibility with those they will be expected to lead. People desperately want to believe in and trust their leaders. They admire and seek out qualities like integrity and trust. Natural leaders in history often rose from the ranks, anointed by followers as inspiring examples – a model for business, too.
Seek out the right attitude. A leader can possess all the greatest skills in the world, but if not accompanied by the ‘right’ attitude, this individual can wreak tremendous havoc within the organization. While skills are important, they are not the be-all and end-all. If you first find leaders with the right attitude, skills can be acquired and taught. Better yet, find a leader who has both.
Questions For Reflection
Think about your ideal historical leadership figure, and about a a leader whom you admire in your business or professional life. What most stands out about these people that makes these choices so easy?
Are you generally a “pleaser” or not, and how does your style impact on your ability to lead others?
What does serving others mean to you, and how does thinking of yourself as a servant leader sit with you?