The most influential leaders are those that truly care about the well-being and success of others.
A few years back I was struggling with some personal issues that had really affected my effectiveness in many ways. I had a friend at the time who took a great interest in me. He would make a point to visit me at home every week just to talk and get to know me better. Over time, I came to realize that he genuinely cared for my well-being. There wasn’t anything self-serving about his visits, he just wanted me to feel better. Every time he came over he asked what he could do for me. He sincerely wanted to serve me in any way he could. To this day I not only count him as a friend but a man I would follow just about anywhere. Talk about lasting influence! He was a master of servant leadership.
There is a tendency for many people to picture a leader as someone barking orders and issuing commands; an authoritative drill sergeant whose will must be obeyed or repercussions will follow. The notion of a “servant leader” is tough for many to conceptualize. Yet it’s a leadership practice that I teach for good reason: The most effective leaders are those who are willing to serve their followers because it empowers them to reach higher and more effectively represent the interests of the organization. Its service oriented actions that create a desire for people to follow you.
John C. Maxwell has said that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is certainly a true statement in a leader/follower relationship. There is nobody on earth who wants to follow someone who treats them poorly. We can take that statement one step further and say that folks are generally eager to be associated with someone who goes out of their way to help them.
So, as a leader what can you do to truly practice servant leadership and grow your influence? First and foremost, your thought process needs to go from “What’s in it for me?” to “What can I do for others?” This is easier said than done. In their book “The Servant Leader” Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges make a simple distinction between self-serving leaders and servant leaders.
“One of the quickest ways you can tell the difference between a servant leader and a self-serving leader is how they handle feedback, because one of the biggest fears that self-serving leaders have is to lose their position. Self-serving leaders spend most of their time protecting their status. If you give them feedback, how do they usually respond? Negatively. They think your feedback means that you don’t want their leadership anymore.”
To orient yourself as an effective servant leader, focus on these four things:
Leadership has nothing to do with advancing your own agenda. Those with a servant leader mindset are concerned with helping people become their best selves. As a side-effect, they grow their influence to new levels and strengthen their organization as a whole. The essence of servant leadership is always thinking and acting outside yourself.