Most of us lead someone, somewhere, sometime. At work, at home and/or with friends.
To the extent that we lead, we usually want to be good at it or like to think we are. But how do you picture or want to picture your leadership style?
A benevolent dictator? An exemplar of unparalleled discipline, fabulous intellect and Solomon-wise decision-making? A person of the people, for the people, friendly, approachable and always good for a laugh?
Recently some of us have had a little more time, and cause, to reflect on our own leadership style. What are we actually doing, what is our cause and effect, and are any revisions or modifications necessary or appropriate?
If this is you, may I make a suggestion for you to consider: Servant Leadership.
Hardly a new concept, and one that has been extensively written about. Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term servant leader (“The Servant as a Leader”, 1970 essay), expounded the belief that the most important facet of a servant leader is to make one’s main priority to serve rather than to lead: “A servant can only become a leader if a leader remains a servant.”
Rather than conforming to the traditional role of leadership (where the leader’s main focus is the thriving of their company or organisation) (the power and control model), a servant leader puts the needs of the employees first, and helps people develop and perform to their best.
Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people.
The perceived benefit within a business organisation is that as employees develop, so the organisation grows in tandem with the employees’ growing commitment and engagement. Politicians in particular often feign this leadership style, but we, those ostensibly served, often doubt that their words translate to actions.
Undoubtedly, in difficult times the ability of leaders to reassure, motivate, build resilience and create a community feel is very important, if not vital.
But our leadership style is important for all of us, at any time, in any context, at work, at home and at play. I doubt that anyone reading this article (thank you for getting this far!) is not in some circumstances a leader i.e. in a position of influence or power in some relationship.
So consider: In your relationships, are you here to serve or be served?
I would argue that to serve is more noble, more empowering and undoubtedly more rewarding (in whatever way you measure that) than to be served. It requires, and builds, character and strength. It is a way to thrive: not just for the people around you that you influence, but for yourself.
Serving is not demeaning; it is not a sign of weakness, lack of skill or motivation. Quite the opposite. Servant leaders require character and competence, they must display humility with an egalitarian attitude and their style and actions should engender trust. Leaders should be facilitators.
If you need any encouragement to think about this issue further, heed this: magic happens with a serve-first mindset.