For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
We all have a story we tell ourselves about our leadership: a private narrative in our own minds that the outside world never hears.
Each day you build upon your leadership story. You talk to yourself about your development, progress, and sacrifices. And you “write” page after page about your mistakes, missed opportunities, and weaknesses. It’s human nature to think about our leadership this way. We all do it.
But, the truth?
When you talk to yourself like this, without meaning to or even being aware of it, you make yourself the hero of your own leadership story.
Servant leadership requires you to flip the script and allow the people you lead to take center stage in your mind’s story of how you lead.
But what does “flipping the script” mean, in tangible, practical terms? What concrete steps can you take?
Take stock of your leadership.
Self-awareness is critical to becoming an effective servant leader. It’s important to think about how you show up and lead and what you can improve.
Schedule time to think about how to serve others effectively.
More importantly, how often do you make it a point to simply think and plan about how to lift up each of the people in your life?
Your mind is a marvelous gift from God. So are your powers of perception and discernment. If you’re like most of the leaders I serve, you’ve made tremendous progress in developing your ability to use these gifts to serve others well in real time, as events and challenges unfold.
But serving reactively is only half of a servant leader’s job. The other half is serving proactively. Intuitively.
How much more meaningful and powerful could your service be if, instead of simply responding to needs, you developed your ability to anticipate them? Giving yourself time and space to think and pray about each of the people you lead – thoroughly, expansively, and earnestly — will support you to become more proactive, intuitive, and intentional in how you serve.
Seek out unconventional heroes for your personal leadership narrative.
As you begin to focus on other people more, you need to be aware of something:
You will find it easier to spend more time thinking about how to serve people who are likeable and like you. You will find it harder to think and pray about people who feel incompatible with you.
I challenge you to seek out unconventional heroes for your new leadership story:
- Employees on the fringes.
- Middle managers who are struggling.
- Employees who are high performing but who are in some fundamental way incompatible with your personality.
Invest in these people, too. As you focus on them and develop your intuition of how to effectively serve them, you will lift them up to a level of performance they’ve never experienced.
This is the core promise and documented outcome of servant leadership.
Are you open to adjusting your schedule? Taking dedicated time each day to thinking and praying about how to better serve each of the people in your life?
For those minutes, quiet your mind, shift your focus from your own performance and problems, and give someone else the hero’s role in your leadership story. Jesus certainly did this each day for you and me.
Let’s follow His lead. Are you in?
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Great advice Mark! I can personally testify that it DOES work! About 10 years ago I was placed in a leadership role involving an individual who was less than enthusiastic about taking work direction from a “young whippersnapper” like me. This person had over 30 years of precision machining and machine building experience. He wasn’t shy about letting me know this either, and he was not exactly a ray of sunshine. At first we clashed wills, and I battled with trying to figure out how to connect. After some prayer and reflection, I made a conscious decision to humble myself, and told him that all I wanted to do was learn from him. I asked him to teach me, and share his years of knowledge and experience, to help me be a better leader for him. It was a tough road at first, but as we worked together the walls slowly came down, and eventually we got to a place where we completely trusted each other, and were able to do some incredible things. Today I count him among my top 5 influencers because of the impact he had on me.
Wow! Shawn thanks so much for sharing this impactful story. Truly illustrates the power of prayer, and how stepping into humility can greatly enhance your leadership and influence. You clearly made this individual a hero of your leadership story! So cool!!
Blessings on all the great work you are doing!