Servant leaders are intentional about providing “above and beyond” service.  I continually explore the values of companies I tend to frequent.  I especially look for employees carrying out or expressing those values when I’m there.  Lately, more often than not, I’ve been pleasantly surprised as companies seem to be getting the servant leadership message!

I have often drawn a contrast to the service received on Delta as compared to Southwest Airlines. Southwest is renowned for their customer service and the experience they provide for their customers. After flying Delta last week, and over the last few months, I don’t think I can honestly contrast the two from a customer focus and service standpoint any more.

Clearly Delta has gotten very intentional about focusing on its customers to ensure they have a great experience. The service I received on my last 6 flights has been fantastic! Everyone from the ticket counter, to the gate agents, to the flight attendants, and the pilots have gone out of their way to be friendly and helpful. They were all smiling! They provided exit row seats just because I was tall (at no extra charge!), all the snacks I wanted, and on-time flights. I wasn’t expecting any of these perks, but was very pleasantly surprised.

I frequented Starbucks as well in the last week as I have heard a lot about their culture of servant leadership. I found it to be real!

Their mission and values are:


To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.


With our partners, our coffee and our customers at our core, we live these values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.

Both my wife and I commented every visit how evident it was that all employees were focused on living their values and carrying out their purpose. Everyone was smiling and making sure all clients were properly greeted. Even though there were often long lines waiting to order, employees made on the spot decisions to walk out among the line to speed up order-taking.  I witnessed a server come out from behind the counter to carry a physically disabled customer’s coffee and oatmeal to a table, moving a chair so the table would accommodate him, and preparing the coffee and oatmeal for his enjoyment before going back behind the counter to serve others!  It is no wonder Starbucks has enjoyed such an outstanding run of financial performance over the last 15 years.

It was fun having the opportunity to compliment all of these people that were so intent on providing a great level of service. They were focusing on enhancing lives!  They made each customer’s day, and you could see how they enjoyed their work as well.

We all have people that we serve everyday. How intentional are you about the impression you are leaving with those you are serving. Are you enhancing people’s lives?

Mark Deterding

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.

Proverbs 11:25