Leader as Servant

Christ_washes_apostles'_feet_(Monreale)Leadership is very ego inflationary and needs to be consciously regulated or it will get out of control. The most ego-centric organizational leader focuses attention directly and exclusively on HIS/HER charter or mandate. If the charter succeeds (defined by some combination of perception and metrics) then I succeed. The staff who report to ME is the force at MY disposal to accomplish MY charter. I complain when my force is too small for MY charter and seek more charter when I have, or can obtain, extra force. Given these concerns, I mostly manage laterally and upward. I address MY force when I want to exercise MY power – either to reshape them or change their direction.

In servant leadership, also called “leading from behind,” the charter belongs to the team and the leader tries to help every person on that team do the best possible job, knowing that the indirect result will be a productive and creative charter. Providing individual help (leadership, counsel, mentoring, advocacy, assessment, development) means knowing each person as an individual human being, striving on a career path woven into a much larger life path. This service must be rendered, obviously, to all direct reports, but also all 2nd level reports and randomly after that. A legendary football coach once said, “You win with people.” Not force, or headcount, but a team of individuals with names, hopes, fears and desires. The servant leader willingly puts his fate as an individual into the team that he has coached and nurtured.

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