Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2012
We all have a God-given purpose. As we mature, our parents, teachers and friends can either encourage and promote our purpose, or negate that purpose. Business leaders especially have the opportunity and resources to either trap their employees or bring them into a larger space, helping them fulfill their purpose and calling.
The late Robert Greenleaf, an executive at AT&T and lecturer at Harvard and MIT, states in Servant Leadership, “…if one is to preside over a successful business, one’s major talent will need to evolve from being the chief into the builder of the team.”
Most don’t eagerly seek the “Servant Leader” title. Servant leaders aren’t the center of attention and won’t receive praise for a good job. In my imagination, the servant leader becomes like a stepstool. A stepstool is not in a prideful position; it’s an unglamorous calling. The stepstool simply boosts its user up to reach the desired level. We’ll look at the 4 legs to this stepstool, then lastly, a step to stand upon.
Leg# 1 – The Focused Servant Leader
By laying defined boundaries, the servant leader does not allow himself to be abused, but does allow himself to be used. How can this be accomplished?
1. Know thyself. When the servant leader understands his identity in Christ, he stands firm when opposition comes.
2. Set boundaries in place. This brings confidence to your employees who, knowing what is expected of them, can move into their calling.
There’s security in the strength of focused leadership. The servant leader doesn’t say “Yes” to everything, but remains steadfast in his priorities. Steadfast leaders know what direction their compass points, and don’t drift with every shifting wind. This causes his followers to become confident in their roles, too.
Leg# 2— The Delegating Servant Leader
Too often, I’ve said, “It takes more time to teach someone else than to do it myself”. Or out of fear, I think “What if the employee leaves after I spend time discipling them?” This is an area we can all release. Accept God’s plan for every person who works with/for you. Are these individuals brought to you by God? You can obediently invest the time. Be replaceable – for the next generation’s sake!
If I have unrealistic expectations of myself, and believe the company’s success depends on my abilities alone, I will not only burn out, but watch excellent people leave for greater opportunities. As stewards of the talents our Master has given, we are to transfer our expertise so the entire team has opportunity to bring growth to the company. I encourage you to meditate on John 3:29-30.
In 2003, I hired a lady for an administrative position. “Sarah” began diligently learning how to file the massive stacks of reports that blanketed my desk. She sought ways to help make my life less complex, and I depended on her as my right arm. One day I asked if she was willing to delve more into the world of manufacturing. She said yes, so I sent her into the non-air- conditioned production area, where she worked on a punch press for a time. Sarah was eager to jump in and got hands-on experience. Every afternoon before leaving work, she sat in my office, asking questions. We explored trade magazines, reviewed engineers’ drawings, and discussed challenging customers. Teaching her was a delight, and Sarah was one main reason I looked forward to work during that time. We both enjoyed a successful delegation experience. It took a significant amount of time, but was an experience I look forward to repeating again.
Leg # 3 – The servant leader encourages creativity
Leg # 4 – The servant leader doesn’t know it all
Admit it. You know you don’t know everything. Everyone else knows it too. But is it really OK to not have all the answers? Our employees recognize when we don’t know what to do next. But who said the boss is supposed to have all the answers, anyway? We hurt ourselves and our team when we don’t accept wisdom from others. The employees that surround us daily are oftentimes great people to ask when we need ideas and input.
It takes a village to raise a business. Seek the counsel of other professional people. Who do you know that could be a trustworthy, reliable “sounding board” for you? When it comes down to decisions such as: “should I open another location”, or “should I buy out my competitor”, hearing from another business person is good judgment and shows wisdom, not weakness. Seek help from those who have experience in these matters.
What we stand on: The Servant Leader is Ethical
What’s your leadership built on? If you have the reputation of integrity, you’re likely to attract trusting customers, retain employees with integrity, and sleep well at night, since you’re not carrying legal issues on your shoulders!
In Called to Excellence, Heeth Varnedoe writes about ethics in business. “You may be striving to become the best, but it needs to be underlined with integrity and character. When you have those qualities in place, you’re eventually going to become a success.”
What is your leadership style? Do you lead with a heavy fist, using others as the stepstool to achieve power? Do you go wherever the wind blows, allowing a sense of instability and insecurity? Or, do you lead with the desire to make others successful, while succeeding in the process? The fact is, we have help as leaders. The Holy Spirit is ready to assist us with discipling true leaders, if we just ask.
Read more by visiting Angela Hough’s blog, “Journey of Kingdom Business“.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15 NIV).
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise” (Proverbs 19:20 NIV).
“While giving a great employee their performance review, one of my habits is to ask the employee, “Is there anything new you want to learn in addition to your regular job? Even in another department?” Encourage curiosity! Help employees to find their niche, and don’t lock them into “job description prison” for a life sentence! Helping each employee into their natural role, you will find productivity and the culture of your company improving. – John Stanko, So Many Leaders… So Little Leadership
“The most immediate risk in your present way of operating may be that you could not be replaced, if there should be a need of that.” – Robert K Greenleaf, Servant Leadership
“(Servant) leaders want to see the company even more successful in the next generation, comfortable with the idea that most people won’t even know that the roots of that success trace back to their efforts.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great
Scripture Reference: John 3:29-30, Proverbs 18:15, Proverbs 19:20