What do the greatest leaders, husbands, wives, parents, friends, bosses, politicians or pastors have in common? I believe they get the idea of serving people. Servant leadership has been around for a very long time, it was the way Jesus led and many of our best leaders throughout history got it as well. Robert Greenleaf said it well: “The true test of a servant leader is this: Do those around the servant leader become wiser, freer, more autonomous, healthier, and better able themselves to become servant leaders?” Would the people you lead say that about you? Would your spouse say that about you?
The main thing that keeps us from serving the people around us is our ego. Selfishness is the destroyer of relationships and leaders. One of the keys to becoming a better leader, husband, wife etc is to be humble. Here are two great definitions for humility: Ken Blanchard – “People with humility don’t think less of themselves; they just think about themselves less.” Fred Smith – “People with humility don’t deny their power; they just recognize that it passes through them, not from them.”
The other thing that keeps us from serving others is fear. We fear losing control, being taken advantage of, not being heard, being rejected, failing, looking stupid and on and on. To battle against these fears we need to practice unconditional love. Think about the way you love your child. You don’t only love them when they perform well, you love them no matter what. That is called unconditional love, and that is what makes a leader great. In a business setting this means telling people the truth, being direct and yet gentle. It means having the courage to challenge someone and do it it a gentle way. It means you actually care about the people you lead and know them as a person. It means you listen well and admit when you are wrong.
I came across this great acronym SERVE from the well known Chick-fil-A organization. This is the guide they use in all their management and leadership training. I think it is a great tool to use for our personal mission statements and for any business. Here it is:
- S stands for See the Future – Having a clear vision of where you want to go is crucial. Whether that is for your business, your family, your marriage or your church. Once a clear vision is established, goals and strategies can be developed to help get you there.
- E stands for Engage and Develop People – In order to engage and develop the people you have influence with you need to know them. This means understanding what their goals are and helping them get there. It also means understanding what speaks to them, what they care about. To engage someone you need to pay attention to them and listen. This is where the idea of mentoring comes in, walking along side someone to help them get better. It can also be coaching someone on how to improve in certain areas.
- R stands for Reinvent Continuously – This means on a personal level are you learning, growing and getting better? The greatest leaders I know are constantly reading, listening to someone speak, spending time with mentors and coaches to sharpen their wisdom and skills. Everyone should have a personal development goal every year. This also applies to your organization or relationships. Helping the people you lead grow and reinvent themselves helps your organization grow, the same can be said for a marriage. It is also important to remain flexible through this process and understand that if something is not working, stop doing it and try something else.
- V stands for Value Results and Relationships – Both are critical for long term success. You can have it both ways if you are a servant leader. When you have high expectations for results and relationships your influence goes up, because the people around you know that you care about them and yet expect the best from them.
- E stands for Embody the Values – This is all about building trust. Do your actions line up with the talk? Do you live consistently with the values you profess? Where there is trust there is strength and health.
Serving the people you influence is hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. Be strong and courageous and lead by serving well.