Serving Leadership is a Verb; Action Is Required!
Much has been written about the concept of servant leadership. It can be a bit confusing due to the term “servant.” For some, it conjures up an image of a person hired to perform personal domestic duties, with little input toward planning and resources. Others tie it to a philosophy of unquestioning submissive service to others.
The real goal is to focus on the idea of leadership as service to others. I like to use the more descriptive term, “serving leadership.”
Noun vs. Verb; Title vs. Action
The use of the word serving changes the meaning from a title or position to a verb; an action. Consider these definitions of serve (serving) from a quick Google search:
- To perform duties or services for another person or organization
- To be of service to, be of use to, help, assist, aid, make a contribution to, do one’s bit for, do something for, benefit
That sounds like my idea of leadership.
Then, there is the second word, leadership. What do we really mean by that? My favorite definition of leadership comes from Michael McKinney: “Leadership is intentional influence.”
The use of the word “intentional” is the key. There is serious thought in leadership; it is not random. There is foresight and planning; it is not accidental. We are deliberate and purposeful in our actions; not haphazard.
Add to that the idea of leadership as serving others – to help, assist, aid, and make a contribution to – and we have a powerful declaration of our role as leaders.
Serving leadership is intentional influence to actively support the people and goals of the team or organization.
How To Practice Serving Leadership
How can we be this type of leader? Here are some intentional actions to consider:
- Be authentic, be real, be human; relate to your team members from a place of caring about them as people, first
- Understand the mission and goals of the organization and enlist others in it through your clarity and passion
- Provide the resources your team needs and clear any obstacles in their path
- Encourage and reward achievement; coach and counsel accountability
- Listen to the ideas of others, even when – especially when – they differ from your own
- Walk the talk; be an example of the type of behavior you expect from others
- Put people to work in their strengths zone whenever possible to maximize their performance opportunity and contributions to the team’s success
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Let Alber Enterprise Center help your front line and mid-level leaders develop the practice of serving leadership. Our workshop “Leading the Challenge and Finding your Strengths” is the first step toward reducing turnover rates, increasing revenues, and improving quality.
Eleanor E. Biddulph is an operations effectiveness consultant and emerging leader coach. As a Leadership Studies graduate from Otterbein University, she has honed the skills necessary to lead a dynamic, complex and rapidly growing organization. Eleanor has also been trained through The Extreme Leadership Institute, and recently joined Alber Enterprise Center’s roster of expert solution providers.