Seven years ago, I became the chief executive for an organization of over 600 employees, the largest organization I had the honor to lead in my then 18-year career. As I contemplated how to lead the organization and develop the vision for the team, I was reminded by one of my mentors that a true leader must serve those he leads. From that point on, I vowed to be a servant leader who would pour into the lives of those under my care and pursue a servant attitude in everything I did.
Let’s define the following key terms: servant, pursue, and desire. Webster’s dictionary defines servant (n.) as “a person in the service of another”; pursue (v.) as “to follow in order to overtake; to chase”; and desire (v.) as “to wish or long for, to crave.”
Read those definitions again.
Are you a servant or a leader? The 21st-century workforce wants and needs more than leaders with the entitlement they too often bring to the table. Today’s workforce desires leaders who understand they must serve and not be served. It longs for servant-leaders.
Through my now more than 25 years of leadership experience, I’m encouraged to utilize a servant leadership mindset in my personal and professional life. But how does one establish this type of mindset? Establishing a servant leadership mindset requires you to surrender, sacrifice, and stay.
To surrender requires a leader to yield to the power of another. As a chief executive, I still had to answer to higher powers, and more importantly, to my employees and their well-being. Effective leaders must pursue being part of something bigger than themselves and surrender their “position” in order to help others achieve success and, in turn, help the organization succeed.
To sacrifice is to give oneself up for the good of another. Servant leaders can’t see their employees as “pawns” and use them to get ahead. Put away your own desires and see yourself as a servant to others. Live with a “towel” not a “title”! Sacrifice your time, talents, and treasures to help others succeed. Servant leaders respond to making sacrifices with confidence, perseverance, and courage because they know they are part of something bigger than themselves. And leave your ego at the door. After all, leadership can never be about you.
To stay as a servant leader is to hold out, endure, and remain to the end! Stand firm when the trials come, stay the course to make an impact and grow a legacy. If you’ve surrendered to their service and sacrificed for them, you won’t be alone when trials require you to stay. Too many leaders turn and run when the going gets tough. Stick it out and learn to grow with your team.
The master motivator, Zig Ziglar, stated, “You can get everything you want if you just help enough people get what they want!” Establishing a servant-leadership mindset is essential to achieving long-term success in business and life. And your employees desire it.
When I finally learned how to surrender to a greater cause, sacrifice for the good of the organization and others, and stand firm when the going was toughest, I reaped the benefits of servant leadership. It is, however, an ongoing, uphill battle that will cease to end as long as I desire to lead others and make an impact on lives.
Who have you helped this week? How are you adding value to the lives of others? If you don’t know where to begin, consider practicing servant leadership.