As we continue our series, it’s important to remember that if you truly want to be successful, there is always work to be done or a price to be paid. This week’s secret requires us to do a psychological gut check and find a way to put our ego in the back seat.
Lesson #2: Be a Servant Leader
None of us works alone. From the smallest home businesses to Fortune 500 companies, people work with other people to get things done. All enterprises (whether you have 2 employees or 20,000) require structure and leadership. But how do you get the most out of the people you work with?
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
I’m a fan of war movies. And most of those stories portray two stereotypical kinds of leaders. The first type is the one wearing a clean-pressed uniform who barks orders from the safety of a remote command post, unaware or apathetic about the struggles of the men in the trenches. The second type is the one covered in dirt, sweat, and blood who raises their sword and leads the charge into battle.
Without getting into a debate about military strategy, there is a simple lesson to be learned from these scenarios. Leading by example brings out the best in those being led. You want to earn respect? Be willing to do the things you are asking others to do. Somehow, I don’t think William Wallace’s horseback speech in Braveheart would have had the same effect if he had ended it with “And good luck! I’ll be waiting back here if you need me.”
So roll up your sleeves and work to clear the path that you want your army to take. Leaders like that don’t demand any credit or recognition. It just happens naturally. When the battle is over, the troops know which leader put their butt on the line to get the job done.
Humility vs. Elitism
From higher pay to greater recognition, people pursue leadership positions for a variety of reasons. We all know someone whose leadership style involves nothing more than flexing the muscle of their ego or title. Sometimes it’s as simple as “get me some coffee.” Other times, they make major policy changes with the always helpful explanation “because I’m the boss.” That’s elitism.
When your face needs to be the one on the brochure or in the commercial (even if market research says to go a different way). When you worry more about getting the credit than about getting results. That’s elitism. And in the long run, it’s not effective. Elitist leaders do not earn respect. They might demand (and get) temporary obedience; but they won’t win the hearts and loyalty of their people.
There’s a better way to help your organization succeed… Help other people succeed. It takes effort to build people up. It takes humility and courage to put your pride aside and invest in people. Whether that investment takes the form of time, energy, or sweat equity; it always pays dividends.
When you take a chance on people and work side-by-side with them – you give them a chance to grow, to perform, and to surprise you. That’s servant leadership. Can you be burned by putting trust in someone who turns out to be unworthy? Yes. Is it worth the risk? Yes.
In the end, servant leadership is simply about serving those you lead. That usually can’t be done from behind the closed doors of the big corner office.