Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

Are you a servant leader?

jackie robinsonArticle Contributed by Amy Sargent

Baseball great Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” From the site baseballhall.org, we read this about the famed second baseman: “The impact Robinson made on Major League Baseball is one that will be forever remembered. On April 15 each season, every team in the majors celebrates Jackie Robinson Day in honor of when he truly broke the color barrier in baseball, becoming the first African-American player in the 20th century to take the field in the big leagues. He opened the door for many others and will forever be appreciated for his contribution to the game.”

How often do we stop to ponder how our life is impacting others (because it is) and more importantly, what kind of impact is it having?

Traditional leadership often refers to the accumulation and use of power to accomplish one’s goals. In contrast, a servant leader shares power and focuses on helping others achieve their goals.

Reflect for a moment on the person in your life who has been the most influential in shaping you to be who you are–someone who has possibly inspired you, empowered you, and/or led you well? Do you have that person’s face fixed in your mind? Now, what quality (qualities) do you most appreciate about him or her? I’m guessing it isn’t their amazing stash of wealth, their ability to dominate a meeting, or their knack for commanding everyone’s attention at any given moment.

I consulted Webster to see how he defines the word ‘servant’. Take a look at some of the specific words used in the definition (emphasis mine): servant | n. | One who serves, does services, voluntarily or on compulsion; a person employed by another for menial offices, or for labor, and is subject to his command; a person who labors or exerts himself for the benefit of another, his master or employer; a subordinate helper.

Serves…compulsion…menial…subject to command…labors for others’ benefit…subordinate helper….when I think of leading, I have to admit these are not the words that quickly come to mind, and they honestly are not that appealing. Yet a valuable competency of social and emotional intelligence is our ability to have a service orientation. John C. Maxwell, author, speaker, and founder of an international leadership development organization designed to help leaders, says it very poignantly:

 “True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.”

If that’s accurate, which I believe it is, then we need to figure out what this servant leadership thing really is.

What does it look like to be a servant leader? Leadership can take many shapes and forms, but those who naturally possess this ability to pilot others with a servant’s heart tend to be:

  • Good listeners. They tune into what their followers are saying (and not saying) and take action in response to what they hear.
  • Available. Servant leaders carve out time in their busy schedules to spend with their team members and readily offer their time and expertise.
  • Motivators. They are driven to help others succeed and know how to spur others to do so.
  • Encouragers. Those with a servant heart love to speak highly of others and build them up, both one-on-one and in public.
  • Satisfaction Seekers (for others). These leaders actively search for ways to increase their teams’ satisfaction and engagement levels.
  • Helpers. Servant leaders actually like helping others reach their goals more than they enjoy achieving their own.
  • Blame Holders. They refuse to ‘pass-the-buck’, and will take a hit for their teams if needed.
  • Overachievers. Servant leaders are willing to go above and beyond what is expected for the benefit of others.
  • Forgetful. These leaders make a point to move past “wrongs” once the issue has been dealt with appropriately. They forgive quickly, and help leverage team members’ strengths instead of focus on past weaknesses.
  • Anticipators. Servant leaders think ahead to foresee the needs and desires of those they lead…and act accordingly.

Servant leadership may not be your current style, but if you want to begin to develop it, be encouraged that no matter how deeply ingrained your present behaviors may be, they can be remodeled. Becoming self-aware that there is room to grow is a terrific first step. But moving from a traditional leadership style to servant leadership is easier said than done. Break this valiant mission into small steps with simple, attainable goals. For example, try focusing on just one of the above qualities for the next few weeks. Brainstorm ways you can serve your teams in that way. Write them down. Post them in a place you can see them or put them on a to-do list. Set reminders on your smart phone. Grab an accountability partner to walk alongside you. Each and every day, make an attempt to do just one kind deed for a team member. Maybe it’s just looking up from your computer or phone when someone comes in to talk. Or spending an extra five minutes really listening to someone. Or taking them out to lunch. Or offering your talents to help on a project. Or making them a cup of coffee this morning.  If you’re struggling with ideas or follow through, team up with a coach to help you make the shift.

It may feel very unnatural at first, but like with anything, the more you practice it the more serving others will come natural. And the effort will be worth it. Robert Ingersoll says it best:  “We rise by lifting others.” Transitioning to a servant leader style can and will elevate your impact as a leader. And maybe, just maybe, those you affect will someday say this about you,  “He opened the door for many others and will forever be appreciated for his contribution to the game.”

“Your gifts are not about you.  Leadership is not about you. Your purpose is not about you.  A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership, and your purpose.” – Kevin Hall, author

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