With much of the western world turning its attention to the Easter season and the recognition of the Easter story, I want to reprint this article, extracted from my book, “The Uncommon Commodity”. Since Jesus gave us the perfect example of servant leadership, it seems appropriate to share the teaching here again. This is my Easter message to you.
As a leader, taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary involves understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker,
In her article “6 Leadership Styles, and When You Should Use Them,” Robyn Benincasa (2012) writes,
“Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are facilitators of their team members’ success. They 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 paths; that they’re being groomed for the next level; that they are recognized for great performance and coached through their challenges.”
To transition from manager to leader, you must first understand that leadership takes many forms. Various studies have been done to identify leadership styles. Prevailing thought suggests that no one style is the universal answer to effective leadership. Rather, it is suggested that leadership styles should be used much like the way a golfer selects a club from his bag. The situation dictates which style to use.
I have found that while adjusting my approach to people and situations is definitely more effective, there is a central principle from which my leadership style stems. This approach could be referred to as “servant leadership.”
What Is Servant Leadership?
While it’s a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader.” In that essay, Greenleaf says:
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? (1970)
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 shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform to their best capabilities.
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 connection. Connection with the whole team, the enterprise, and the purpose.
Servant leadership was demonstrated by Jesus throughout his ministry, and best summed up by the following verse: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
Some will argue that being a servant-leader is weak. The so-called “old school leaders” who dictate their directives with iron-fisted demands are far from servant-leaders. While businesses ran for decades under this kind of tyranny, enlightened workers began searching for better work environments. Servant leadership provides that better solution. I suggest to you here that 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 tiebreaker. 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.
Question: Do you know a business leader who exhibits servant leadership?