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Leading: by serving?

servant-leadershipServant-leadership seems to be more of a “hot” topic than a decade ago.

I remember talking about S-L to an executive at a Fortune 500 company:  she liked the parts, the process and the problems S-L thinking helped solve – she didn’t like the term “servant” applied to leadership.

She wasn’t alone.  “Serving” in America has a patina of meaning that is colored with race. It shouldn’t be. It is.

Serving is an attitude. An attitude that helps leader inspire and motivate followers.

It’s about moving ahead by looking after the needs of others –  before you look after your own needs.  And that’s tough to do.

It takes work: work at checking your ego at the door; work at understanding what those reporting to you need you to do to help them get their jobs done well; work to keep the focus of the firm fixed (is it on strategy?); work at looking for processes that can be streamlined to serve customers, supply-chain, value-chain well (and sometimes that means discarding “old” processes that don’t seem to be broken, but are because expectations of the recipients of that process were never properly set. ); work, because the new generation of workers distrust “the corporation.”

This is still the “me” generation:  the language is replete with “me” used as a nominative-case pronoun (as in “me and John went to the store…”). This language reflects a culture that has been focused on “the me” and not on “the other.”

Maybe this is why more is being written and promoted about servant-leadership – and, in my opinion,  it’s about time.


6 Responses

  1. Another great thought-provoking piece. At Corban University, we’re using the phrase “service leadership.” That’s not original, but we’ve found it very useful especially given our strong Christian DNA…

  2. Great thoughts, Griff. I totally concur.

  3. There is a book out “The checklist Manifesto” written by a surgeon in a large hospital in Boston. He outlines many of the problems that occur in an operating room, that are based on lack of proper leadership in the OR. One simple item is the surgical staff introduces themselves and thier tasks in the OR. Since , they all wear masks no one knows who the professionals are. They now have a checklist for each professional and the surgeon asks each person to verbally state his/hers checklist and the portion completed.

    This one simple procedure has resuted in a reduction of OR errors by 76%. The info in this book is applicable to all businesses and all people. Read and you will find procedures that will apply to your job, function and or profession.

  4. Thanks, Kent: I had heard about that book, but had forgotten 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

  5. It’s an amazing piece of writing in support of all the web users; they will take benefit from it I am sure.

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