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.