Every day I strive to be a servant leader. A servant leader looks to serve first and enables others to lead and serve. I’ve challenged my team to be ready to lead, and to be aware that there will be times when the team is looking to you to lead.
One of the frequent questions that I hear, or that is posed to me during interviews, is “How do you prepare to lead?” I’ve reflected on this a lot and I think it can help us grow faster if we better understand servant leadership and how to grow as a leader. I’m growing and learning every day and I hope that by blogging on this tough question, it will help both you and me to grow. I am also so thankful for the benefit of good intentions that my team gives me when I make mistakes. Knowing I can own these mistakes and change directions as needed, grows me as a leader. I believe that before anyone can lead, they must authentically serve others. This means serving in a manner that meets the needs of others, not themselves. This builds the trust that you must have to lead. Anyone that serves only themselves will not be a successful leader. The more we are able to meet the needs of others, the more opportunities we have to lead. Our influence grows. The big disconnect I see for many leaders is that once they gain a leadership role, they stop serving or they begin to serve self first. This always leads to a downfall. As our leadership grows, we must serve even more. There are greater needs to be met and usually more people to serve.
Leadership is also not about power, at least certainly not for a servant leader. In fact, I believe the more you empower, grow and enable others, the more influence (power) you have. The more you intentionally use power, the less you have. It’s a little counter intuitive, but that’s my experience. When our leadership becomes focused on growing power, we have become self-serving. It’s one of the many traps in leadership.
Other traps that limit our ability to lead are fear and jealousy. When we are serving others, we should show appreciation and give credit to others, yet both fear and jealousy will prevent us from doing so. We become scared someone else will get the credit or be promoted before us. We become worried that our service will not be appreciated. We are worried about sharing the spotlight or not being in the spotlight. We all struggle with these traps at times. Servant leaders are able to avoid these traps and put their team members first.
I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying our leadership will depend on our service. Serve first, and then lead.