It is often said that the best leaders are followers. Maybe it is not said often, but it should be. Followers know how to listen well.
The best leaders are also servants. Service is at the heart of leadership. Without service, or a heart, one cannot be an effective leader.
Recently, after a volunteer board meeting for an alumni association, an observer noted that the president of the board was found picking up trash and pushing the chairs back toward the boardroom table. The observer commented, “Is there not someone else to do that?” The president responded, “If not me, then who?”
An important question indeed. If not the leader, then who? Leading by example, practicing what one preaches, and doing rather than saying are all wise principles and attributes.
People in organizations often look to the leader for advice, input, and direction. Leaders can empower those they serve by including them in decision-making, delegating authority, then highlighting the person’s success, all the while growing company morale. A servant leader should also serve the next generation of leaders by being a mentor, while encouraging personal and corporate-ladder growth. The certainty of death means we all should have an increased awareness of what we leave behind.
What we leave behind is built over a lifetime of adventure, struggle, learning, nuggets of wisdom, and experiences to be shared. However, there is a tendency in leadership to want to take versus give.
Part of the dilemma is that leadership brings power and influence. However, a leader should use their power and influence to raise others up and effect good and wise change. A leader serves best when they use their God-given gifts and training to stay true to their morals, values, and goals. A servant leader effectively leads by remaining humble, but also true to the values and circumstances that got them there. This means honoring the past while preparing for the future.
Servant leadership is demonstrated by someone who uses diplomacy as a guide to graciously navigate a dispute. Servant leadership is about finding compromise in policy, but never wavering in values and morals. Servant leadership is knowing your self-worth. It is knowing your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), and those of your team.
Servant leadership does not mean that the leader is always right. In fact, an effective servant leader must search for the best way to proceed even if it means abandoning their stated path. A servant leader is strong in courage, but kind in compromise and forgiveness. A servant leader acts from a point of clear mind and discernment, while considering authenticity and thoughtful opinions.
A servant leader is not subservient, but service minded. There is a difference. One acts from fear, the other acts from courage in mission and heart in approach. A servant leader serves and thinks of others before themselves. Last, a servant leader conquers the urge to be right in exchange for doing what is right.