As I was enjoying my Father’s Day on Sunday I was remembering my dad and reflecting on the servant leadership lessons that I learned him. My father was my lifetime leadership mentor. The example he set will always be the foundation for the way I lead. Here are a few of the lessons I learned from my dad about servant leadership.
I learned the importance of humility. He was the humblest of men, never looking to bring attention to himself but instead always working behind the scenes on behalf of his family and co-workers.
A servant leader’s primary responsibility is to build leaders.
It is often easy to think we are serving others by providing them answers or just doing their work. Sometimes that can even be the most efficient way to get things done. But by doing so, you are actually delaying progress in your team’s development, and heaping more responsibility on yourself. Therefore you are severely limiting progress.
School is out and summer is here. Traditionally this is the time of year when people normally think about taking vacation. I hope you are thinking along these lines, and are planning on getting away from your normal work routine and taking a vacation.
Early in my career I had a great boss who I highly respected. I was the General Manager of a printing plant, and he had a unique rule for his leaders that he absolutely held me to every year. He demanded that I take at least one 2-Week vacation per year. It had to be 2 weeks straight!
Servant leadership is many things, but one thing it is not is “Soft”. Servant leaders have high expectations, both for themselves, as well as for their team.
One key way that servant leaders make things better in an organization is to create and share clear, reasonable, and measurable expectations and performance goals. Then they measure performance and hold everyone accountable for their responsibilities.
Servant leaders have a never-ending passion for personal development and serving others for the greater good of their environment. I witnessed that first hand last week.
I was blessed with the opportunity to speak to the NEXT Willmar Group in Willmar, MN about servant leadership. NEXT is a group of young leaders that was originally spawned from the Chamber of Commerce in Willmar. Their purpose is:
To attract and retain young talent in the community while developing the next generation of leaders.
Willmar is a community of about 20,000 residents. Five years after forming, the NEXT Group has in excess of 200 members, all leaders under the age of 40 who have a passion for their community and for personal development.
In discussions with members of this group I learned that they have 4 primary areas of focus:
- Personal development (They organize specific training and learning events throughout each year)
- Community development (They are involved in the establishment of the Vision 20 / 40 Project for the Willmar Lakes Area)
- Charitable work (They organize and promote volunteer opportunities to help various organizations in the community)
- Social development and FUN! (All events include a social activity to enable members to build relationships.)
This is a group that has gotten outwardly intentional about building servant leaders to insure a bright future for themselves and their community. Think about how they are building the following key elements of servant leadership:
- Foundation – They are crystal clear on their purpose and vision. All their activity and events move them towards the fulfillment of that Foundation.
- Energy – They collectively let each other know how important they are for the future of their city. They encourage each other and have fun in all their activities.
- Performance – This is one of the primary reasons young leaders join NEXT. Each of the members is committed to advancing their personal performance as a leader. Plus they want to advance the performance of their community.
- Relationships – All their activities are built with the intention of building relationships. They clearly recognize this will be what holds their community together into the future.
- Character – They recognize that their membership and activity in NEXT will help them build their personal character, which they know is critically important for a leader to be effective.
What are you doing to be intentional about enhancing your personal development and building a culture of servant leadership in your environment?
For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. Proverbs 11:14
I observed another great lesson of recognizing the power of the example you set as a leader this weekend at my niece’s wedding.
Once we arrived at the wedding reception, my 2-year-old granddaughter, Sylvia was noticing the older children out on the dance floor and some of their activities. She quickly proceeded to go out and follow them around doing whatever they were doing, which was some of the wildest, fastest pace dancing you have ever seen, among other things.
In 1970 Stanford University professors conducted a study at the Bing Nursery School on the campus. The purpose of the study, which later became known as the marshmallow test, was to understand the control of deferred gratification.
Over 600 children participated in the study. Children were placed in a room without distractions except for a treat of their choice – a marshmallow, a cookie, or a pretzel – placed on a table. The children were told they could eat the treat right away; however if they waited 15 minutes without giving in to their immediate urge, they would be rewarded with two snacks.
Servant leaders know their primary focus should be on employees and building the desired culture of the organization. This focus will generally lead to fabulous financial results. I wholeheartedly believe this, as I have seen it play out numerous times in my career and with current clients. But this fact does not relieve us from building a budget or ignoring the financial part of the business.
As Triune Leadership Services has continued to evolve, I realized that spreading the message of servant leadership was being limited by my physical time that I have to be in front of clients. Our Purpose and Vision dictated new strategy and offerings to continue to accelerate the movement of servant leadership.
Are you chasing your dreams? Or are you allowing the world to convince you that you can’t make a difference and are settling for status quo.
It is my dream that leaders across the globe have access to, and open their hearts to the principles of servant leadership. When that happens we will cascade a culture of servant leadership that will have a positive impact on the world.
What does it mean to be committed to being a servant leader, who looks to Jesus as the model for their leadership?
We kicked off our 5/6-Year Leadership Roundtable Group last week. This group of 22 leaders has spent the last 5 years committing themselves to a journey of becoming the leader God created them to be.