This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.
– Robert Townsend
Servant leadership has unfortunately become something of a leadership buzzword, yet the concept is sound. Building off of respect, humility, and trust, the servant leader truly thinks of him or herself differently. Instead of being at the top of the pyramid, they are at the bottom. Their job is to serve the organization, their team, or their family by enabling the success of others. By doing so, they enable the success of the organization.
Servant leaders ignite the passion in an organization by drawing the human connection to the task or goal. They unite people rather than place them into silos. They sacrifice when the going gets tough, and this earns them the respect and commitment of the organization.
You may find it hard to think of examples of servant leaders, because most do not desire fame, accolades, or prizes and are therefore not often in the public eye. Two servant leaders who did become famous are Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. President Lincoln could have taken the easy route and let the Union dissolve or simply let slavery remain intact. However he took the far more difficult path because he knew it would be better in the long run for the people he was serving. Dr. King eschewed recognition and desired to be remembered for helping drive social justice. He also took the harder approach to creating change by promoting non-violence. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa are other examples.
Incredible people, but anyone can be a servant leader. What would happen in your organization, in your team,
or even in your family if you acted like a servant instead of a boss? How would that make you feel? Where and how can you enable success by working to enable the success of others?