As a leader, taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker,
Robyn Benincasa wrote in Fast Company magazine “Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are facilitators of their team members’ success.
Leaders ensure that their people have everything they need to be productive and successful; that they’re well trained, happy and have minimal roadblocks in their path; that they’re being groomed for the next level; that they are recognized for great performance and coached through their challenges.”
To begin the transition from manager to leader, you must first understand that leadership takes many forms. Various studies have been done to identify styles of leadership. Prevailing thought suggests that no one style is the permanent answer to effective leadership. Rather, it is suggested that leadership styles should be used like a golfer selects clubs from his bag. The situation dictates which style to choose.
I have found that while adjusting my own approach to people and situations is definitely more effective, there is a central principle from which my leadership style starts. This approach is something called servant leadership.
What is Servant Leadership?
While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“
A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.
Implementation Using the Best Example
From my experience, servant leadership is a lot of things. It is a mindset, a mantra, a credo, a spirit, a unique set of values, a vision, an inspiration, a core, and above all, a sixth sense of connection. Connection with the whole team, the enterprise, and the purpose.
Servant leadership was demonstrated by Jesus throughout his ministry and best summed up when He said “I have come not to be served, but to serve.” Perhaps this is why there are those who consider weak the body of work studying and practicing servant leadership. Yet I suggest to you there is no better style of leadership.
With servant leadership you can still be firm when needed. You can be decisive. You can be the tie breaker. You can carry the proper authority and exercise it with discipline and grace.
When those things are done, you can still inspire respect and command a faithful following.
Please take a moment to read the links I’ve highlighted above. In the next few blogs will be continuing this course for discussing leadership versus management.