Servant leadership is not a new idea. Robert Greenleaf popularized it in the 1970’s, but Jesus taught it over 2000 years ago. It was as counter cultural then as it is today. Why does this often-overlooked approach to leadership make sense in today’s world?
Servant leadership makes sense because it works!
It’s not a second-class approach to leading. It’s not like saying if you can’t play in the NFL, there’s always the Arena League. It’s not the minor league of leadership. Leaders who serve well release tremendous reserves of potential, creativity and results from those they lead. The question is not “Does it work?” but “Why does it work?”
Here are a few of the reasons. Servant Leadership…
Focuses on Others – The focus of the servant leader is on others. Specifically, those you desire to lead. Your ever present question is not what can you do for yourself; rather, it is how can you serve THEM. When decisions are made, you consider the organization and your people before you weigh the personal consequences.
Honors People – Being a servant leader acknowledges the different roles, responsibilities and strengths of people. It is not about who’s in charge. It is about who is best suited for which roles. It is about helping people accomplish things beyond what they previously thought possible. Servant leaders have a genuine respect for those they lead.
Builds Trust – We trust leaders whose motives are others centered. Their candor, feedback, encouragement and even their directives feel different when trust is present. When our leaders serve us and the organization, we trust them more. Trust is also a key ingredient in loyalty and retention.
Raises Engagement – There is clearly an inspirational component at play when we see others serve on our behalf. It energizes us as followers. When you and I believe that our leaders are not only for us, when we sincerely believe they want to serve us, then we want to serve them and the organizations they lead.
Reveals the Heart – Leadership always reveals the heart of the leader – even if what is revealed is not flattering. When you and I choose to be a serving leader, people see our heart and they realize that we really are in this together. Ultimately, it’s the working together that makes servant leadership so powerful.
When I sign copies of The Secret, a book I co-authored with Ken Blanchard, I often include the inscription: Always SERVE! That’s as much a reminder for me as it is an encouragement for the book’s recipient.