The more I experience in business and in life the more I am convinced the best leaders use their talents and gifts to serve others. An engaged leader that is able to identify and address the needs of those around them will be more effective and influential than those that do not. Strong leaders don’t avoid people’s troubles; they jump right in and ask, “How can I help?” It is so easy for leaders to look at their position as a status symbol instead of an opportunity to serve. In my first year as a branch manager I made many “status symbol” mistakes. Instead of being guided by a conviction to serve others, I often made decisions that would make me look good, make someone else feel inferior, or demonstrate that I was in complete control. The result was not just poor decision making but strained relationships with those on my team.
By the grace of God, I matured and learned from many of my mistakes. I also turned to other leaders for advice and guidance on how to be a more effective and engaged leader. I read books from thought leaders like John Maxwell, Patrick Lencioni, and Daniel Harkavy. I hired a professional coach to hold myself accountable to my vision and convictions. And, I looked for opportunities to take action and serve my team. In my experience I have found five actions a leader can take to demonstrate they are more concerned with service then they are with status:
- Make yourself available. Saying you have an “open door” is great, but actually being proactive with that policy is quite challenging. One of the best ways I’ve discovered is to write notes of encouragement to team members that are struggling with a project, a sale, or even a relationship. A simple note to let them know you are thinking about them and available to talk if needed goes a long way.
- Get out of your office. Behind the leader’s desk is a difficult place to learn about your team and the challenges they are facing. Take the time to walk the halls, stop by offices, and even visit the break room every once in a while so you can engage others in their current reality.
- Allow others to lead. Giving others the opportunity to lead and for you to follow is a wonderful gift you have to give. You do not have to lead every task force, project, or major initiative of your company. Allowing others to lead helps them grow as leaders and provide you with an opportunity to work with your team and serve them.
- Don’t focus on convenience. You cannot serve others only when it’s a good time for you. Servant leadership requires that you put aside the perks of your position and step in to lend a hand when it is needed most. This might mean shifting priorities and blocking time in your schedule to be available for serving.
- Give your best. Show your team that you genuinely care about them by giving everything you have to help them. That means taking the time to ask questions, listen before speaking, remembering their story when engaging them, and serving with a positive attitude. Serve them with excellence like you would a huge account or your most important client.
I think I will always struggle with the temptation to view my role as a status symbol and one where I should be served. The key, for me, is being aware of it and constantly looking for ways to jump in and simply say, “How can I help you today?”
Questions: What did I miss? How are you using your current position to serve others around you?
Make it a great day!