Servant Leadership is a term that found popularity several years ago. As it is with ideas that become popular there is the danger of losing the idea’s true meaning amidst the dust in the scurry of voices weighing in.
There is some good writing out there about this idea of Servant Leadership. And I often find myself gripping this concept in work with my Clients. But how best can we understand it? As with many ethereal topics, the use of story can be a very helpful tool in providing a better understanding – a picture of what something looks like.
My response when it happened was, “From now on when someone needs to know what Servant Leadership looks like, I will tell them your story.”
Getting close to the end of one of our coaching sessions, he said to me, “I was just being his servant leader.” He was referring to a situation when he and one of his employees were attending a meeting … we’ll call the employee Joe. Joe’s personality is not one that naturally enjoys certain levels of note-taking and detail. He would prefer to listen and engage more interactively in the moment (his preferred process). My client, Joe’s leader, actually engages most effectively when he can take notes – thus placing him square in the moment of what is going on – allowing him to listen first and then pull it all together for the benefit of all in attendance (his preferred process).
Because he is conscious of his own strengths, Joe’s leader suggested to Joe that he find someone else to take the notes and leverage his own strength of interaction while in these meetings. Joe had not thought of such a thing and was a bit resistant as he didn’t immediately know who he felt he could call on with this duty. Then his leader looked at him and said, “Why don’t you ask me to do it?”
Now this story is still developing as you read this, but the point has been made. Joe’s leader – being confident in who he is and conscious of his own strengths – has reached out in a very specific way to serve Joe by asking him to focus on what he is best at doing while leveraging another person’s strength in the process.
Joe was simply very surprised when that opportunity to leverage was his own boss!