Servant Leadership – #BEASTMODELIFE Lesson #5

Principle #5 – Be a Servant Leader

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy. Traditional leadership generally involves the exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” Wikipedia

Definition of A Servant Leader

“While the idea of servant leadership goes back at least two thousand years, the modern servant leadership movement was launched by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 with the publication of his classic essay, The Servant as Leader. It was in that essay that he coined the words “servant-leader” and “servant leadership.” Greenleaf defined the servant-leader as follows:

“The servant-leader is a 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?”

Greenleaf said that “the servant-leader is servant first.” By that he meant that that the desire to serve, the “servant’s heart,” is a fundamental characteristic of a servant-leader. It is not about being servile, it is about wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues, customers, and communities.”

http://toservefirst.com/definition-of-servant-leadership.html

My Experience with Servant Leadership

In my years in business, the military and so many other experiences I have ran across Men and Women who have thoroughly portrayed this characteristic. I have also met some who tried to portray it but did not have it in their DNA to be a Servant Leader. In the beginning I fell in the latter category. The funny things is, I wanted to be a leader in early career. For me, and many others I worked with, it was a race to the top. Who could pull down the coveted Operations Manager job first.

There were a few things those who went before us didn’t explain to everyone though. See, when you become a leader, if your heart isn’t in the right place you have 2 options. Lead through fear and manipulation or go home. The third option is to employ servant leadership, but very few companies teach their employees how to become servant leaders. Often times, servant leadership is looked upon as a Christian or religious thing. That is okay, but let me tell you, it’s not.

Being a servant leader entails having confidence in yourself. Knowing that you can influence people without having to control or having appointed authority over them. Being a great servant leader means creating an environment where those around you want to follow you, be like you and further the cause that you are furthering.

My Old Boss

I had a boss when I was young in my career after I had already served in the military who, practiced many of the traits of servant leadership. When I worked for him I was young and stupid, still learning my way in the world. Mike (The Boss) hired me to be a supervisor to a national telecom company and run the field services team in a city about 100 miles from his office. I was excited… As we went down the road of life with him training me in what he wanted me to be and do as his prodigy, I noticed some strange stuff very quickly.

Foul Mouthed Tough Guys

You should understand, as a field services engineer most of these guys were kind of rough around the collar. They were foul mouthed, beer drinking guys who worked way too much. I thought, as their leader I had to outdo everyone of them. I had to be rougher, cuss louder and in general do whatever it took to make them respect me.

All the time, Mike is telling me “hey as leaders we don’t have to act that way, we need to help these guys be the best, we need to enable them, not encourage them or compete with them to get worse”. Unfortunately, for me, my thought was, I can’t be a wienie with these guys or they will eat me alive. Also understand that I was younger than almost everyone who worked for me. You see, I was allowing those guys to dictate how I was going to act, be and treat them. There were times when I would watch Mike interact with them and even though they made fun of him sometimes they always treated him with a great deal of respect, at least in front of him.

Tough Times

This was a tough time for me because I wanted to be a leader and their friend. I rejected the idea of servant leadership because I wanted to run things. Fast forward 15 years. I am working as a sales engineer for a global firewall manufacturer. I am working on a team supporting multiple states. At this point in my career I didn’t want to be in a leadership role, with the thought that I was tired of babysitting grown folks. Then I met someone who taught me how to be a servant leader through his actions more than his words.

A Friend and Co-Worker

Darrell Probst - Servant LeadershipMy Territory Account Manager and friend showed me every trait an principle of servant leadership that Mike had told me so many years before. His name is Darrell Probst and I am fortunate enough to have him as one of my best friends, a peer and a mentor. Darrell didn’t tell me how to be successful, he showed. Darrell taught me how to see, how to be compassionate, how to strengthen soft skills such as empathy, caring and listening to those I am talking to, not to respond but to understand. He taught me the importance of never saying NO to a prospective client but fine tuning their needs to help them get to where they needed to be.

Darrell and I still talk almost daily as we are both unemployed at the time this article was written but we along with a few others have created a support group for each other to help with encouragement, sharing opportunities, basically keeping an eye and ear out for each other. If one of us in the group is going through a hard time as I was recently we show up, call and send smoke signals if necessary to make sure our people are good to go. In the Army we were trained to never leave a man behind. In life this group is the equivalent of our team and we never leave a man/woman behind. We also do our best to quantify the principles of servant leadership.

The Servant as a Leader.

Taken from the article Definition of Servant Leadership and from the Classic Essay written by Robert K Greenleaf in 1970 entitled, The Servant as a Leader.

If there is a single characteristic of the servant-leader that stands out in Greenleaf’s essay, it is the desire to serve. A walk through The Servant as Leader provides a fairly long list of additional characteristics that Greenleaf considered important. They include listening and understanding; acceptance and empathy; foresight; awareness and perception; persuasion; conceptualization; self-healing; and rebuilding community. Greenleaf describes servant-leaders as people who initiate action, are goal-oriented, are dreamers of great dreams, are good communicators, are able to withdraw and re-orient themselves, and are dependable, trusted, creative, intuitive, and situational.

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?”

In Robert C. Liden and his colleagues identified nine dimensions of servant leadership that they used in their research: emotional healing, creating value for the community, conceptual skills, empowering, helping subordinates grow and succeed, putting subordinates first, behaving ethically, relationships, and servanthood. Dirk van Dierendonck reviewed the scholarly literature and identified six key characteristics of servant-leader behavior: empowering and developing people, humility, authenticity, interpersonal acceptance, providing direction, and stewardship.

Greenleaf described a philosophy, not a theory. However, based on the views of a number of scholars, the elements that are most unique to servant leadership compared with other theories are:

(1) the moral component, not only in terms of the personal morality and integrity of the servant-leader, but also in terms of the way in which a servant-leader encourages enhanced moral reasoning among his or her followers, who can therefore test the moral basis of the servant-leader’s visions and organizational goals;

(2) the focus on serving followers for their own good, not just the good of the organization, and forming long-term relationships with followers, encouraging their growth and development so that over time they may reach their fullest potential;

(3) concern with the success of all stakeholders, broadly defined—employees, customers, business partners, communities, and society as a whole—including those who are the least privileged; and

(4) self-reflection, as a counter to the leader’s hubris.

In Conclusion

In closing, remember to influence those around you is a great privilege, that should never be taken lightly. As you grow your networks your true intentions will be laid bare eventually, ensure that you are doing it for the right reasons and not just to influence followers to folly.

In the words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben “With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility”.

Thanks for reading my post and I will see you down the road.

Here is your assignment going forward.

  1. Pick a post of one of your follower or one of the people in one the groups below.
  2. Read the entire post.
  3. Comment on the post and take myself and everyone below.
  4. Share the post and “like” every response.

By tomorrow let me know how new connection requests you have received and how many people commented on your comment. Remember to employ all the principles I have written about so far. When you comment and bring value to the people you interact with. If there is no value in your comments, then you just wasted time and energy.

Thanks,

TD


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Tony DeGonia is the author of 10 ways to become more successful on LinkedIn and in Life. You can find Tony on LinkedIn or on his website https://www.tonydegonia.com

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