Servant leadership: showing how much you care

   “Self-advancement without service to others leads to resentment and lack of trust

I think each of us, when pressed, could name at least one individual whose primary purpose is to advance their own agenda, career, position, etc. with complete and utter disregard for anyone else.  How do you feel when you think of that person?  Do you trust that person?  Do you want to follow him/her?  Do you lay awake at night dreaming of the day when that person achieves his/her next promotion?  Of course, the answer to this is “no”.  None of us feels valued or motivated when we feel used.

However, there is a more subtle version of this type of leadership.  It is not blatant, but does exist.  Do you know anyone that comes to you only when they need your help?  Do you know individuals that frequently fail to return phone calls, answer e-mails, or acknowledge your presence until there is something they need from you or when they expect your support?  Eventually, continued treatment like this can also lead to resentment and lack of trust.

So, how important is it to establish or recognize service to others as a critical leadership skill?  One of my favorite quotes (and, one that I think about almost every single work day) is by Teddy Roosevelt:

      “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

How much you care matters!  And, you show how much you care by serving others.  Certainly, we all must manage our own careers.  But, when you manage your career without regard for others, you are doomed to fail as a leader.  Your team members will resent you and, eventually, their trust for you will diminish or disappear.  When you demonstrate that service to others is part of who you are and what you do, it is amazing how others will embrace you as someone that can be trusted.  When you are trusted, your team members are more likely to share their views, take more calculated risks, think outside the box, and, overall, strive harder for excellence.  When you are not trusted as a leader, members tend to withhold information and effort.  When you demonstrate that your own career is more important than that of your teammates, resentment soon follows.

If you sense resentment and lack of trust on your team, could it be that you have elevated your own interests above those of your team members?  Are you someone that serves others?  Can you remember the last time you did something for someone else that you knew could never repay you?  Here are some helpful hints that you might consider that could enhance your “servant leadership”:

  • Ensure that you are not asking members of your team to do something that you would not personally do yourself
  • Make a personal sacrifice to serve one or more members of your team
  • Allow a member of your team to assume responsibility for a major project, make a presentation, or get exposure that you might normally desire for yourself
  • Bring in donuts or pizza for your team
  • Help your team accomplish a mundane task or help someone finish an activity that they might have to do after hours or on a weekend
  • Praise your team members publicly for some accomplishment or activity they completed
  • Take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, clean up the kitchen — do something unexpected that someone else might normally do
  • Begin conversations with team members about how you can help advance their career aspirations
  • Go to a play, ballgame, or other event for a niece or nephew just to show you care about them and what is important to them
  • Write a personal love letter to your spouse or loved one – or, do something else unexpected or impromptu

Show your team or someone else how much you care today.  Do something!  Have a great, wonderful, terrific, swell day!  Thanks for all you do!

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