“As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them”. John F. Kennedy

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them”. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Happy Memorial Day and a big thank you to all of our past and present service men and women out there.

To Serve

When I think of a holiday like today I think of the key element which is service. To serve, which makes me think of how service relates to leadership. We have all heard the term servant leader or servant leadership. When you hear those words what kinds of images come to mind or what actions do you think are represented by a servant leader? What I have witnessed is that the term is very misrepresented. Many confuse a leader doing someone else’s work for them with being a servant leader. We would all love a boss that does our job for us right?  They may win a popularity contest, “most liked leader”, but someone else doing your job for you is not going to build your skillset, challenge you to do more, or inspire you.

What Most Think Servant Leadership Is

Many leaders roll their sleeves up and get in the trenches. Sometimes it is necessary for the needs of the business, or to provide the example for others to follow. It is natural for anyone, including leaders, to fall back on work that they are the most comfortable doing. In the case of many leaders, it is jumping into the work of their prior position which they did well enough to get recognized and receive a promotion for. It’s a safe place within their comfort zone. Doing this work gives them validation and most often is driven by self-interest.
See what I can do.
Look at how I’m an expert at this.
See how hard I work.
It’s all about the “I”.

Servant leadership is not about doing the work. It is based on the idea that the leader prioritizes serving a larger good. Above all, the team’s objectives are more important than their own objectives. It is about providing vision using influence and expertise to provide strong support to employees allowing them to learn and grow. Simon Sinek says it this way in Leaders Eat Last “the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your won. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest”.

What is servant leadership?

Here are five characteristics of servant leaders

  1. Empathy – To serve another you must be able to see things from their perspective.
  2. Self Awareness – How are your words and your actions impacting those around you? Would they describe you as servant, because servant leaders rarely give themselves this title. It’s the people whom they serve
  3. Selfless – this one word pretty much sums up our definition of a servant leader. Selflessly look out for the goals and well-being of others before you think about your own.
  4. Committed to the growth of people – Invest in people and help them develop the skills they need to thrive in their role and not just their role at work. Focus on their growth holistically.
  5. Authentic – Your words and actions must be credible and genuine to create trust and inspire.

To summarize, servant leadership is not about how much work you do or about doing work for others. It is about doing what you do to put others needs and the needs of the business first. When you practice these five characteristics: empathy, self-awareness, selflessness, authenticity and be committed to the growth of others you will leave a legacy of servant leadership.

“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example”. Benjamin Disraeli

“As we set today aside to honor and thank our veterans, let us be mindful that we should do this every day of the year and not just one”. Beth Pennington

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