What it takes to be a Servant Leader?
Many years ago, at the ripe old age of 17, I read a book by the legendary Zig Ziglar that forever changed my life. The book was entitled “See You at the Top!” There was a quote that unbeknownst to me would set such an impression in my heart and mind, it would set me on the path I remain on today.
The quote, “You can have anything in life you want, when you simply help enough other people get what they want!” To me, the foundation of Servant Leadership springing from Zig.
The simple quote set me on path throughout both my professional career and personal life to serve first, receive second. I know that many people have an issue with the order of serve first, receive second, but over the years, living this principle, it is amazing how it truly works out to your advantage. And once you believe it, you see it!
As a sales and entrepreneurial trainer, I consistently share with audiences that selling is serving and ultimately, everyone loves to be served appropriately. As a salesperson, I don’t ever want to sell you anything…but I always want you to buy a lot from me. With that, it is incumbent upon me to “create an environment” for you to buy.
If I sell…that is a me to you transaction…if you buy, that is a you to me decision and action. The difference might seem inconsequential, but it is actually huge! If I “sell”, you can always be mad at me or blame me if the purchase does not fulfill your needs. But when you buy, it was your decision and therefore rarely does the customer get upset with themselves. Cognitive dissidence (the internal action of the right side of the brain arguing with the left side…also called buyer’s remorse) dissipates and disappears.
Sales stay sold and all the parties are significantly happier.
So, what does it take to be a solid “Servant Leader?” Here’s my take for your consideration.
A Servant Leader “actively seeks input!” Hopefully, everyone reading this should know deep down in their bellies that people do business with those they know, like and trust. If I don’t know you I don’t like you…and if I don’t like you I don’t trust you. But for us to do business together I MUST trust you.
What this means is we must be well on our way to building a strong and lasting relationship because of the trust that is strengthening.
The best way to build that trust is to ask questions, find out their needs, wants and desires, listen to what they say and incorporate their input into your presentation.
A Servant Leader is “compassionate”. Whenever you are working with a team or group of individuals, the desire is to pull them altogether to pull on the same end of the rope. It is not unusual, in fact probably more usual than unusual, that you will start with varying degrees of buy-in towards the goal. With that, you are going to have to learn at a heartfelt level why some are ready to go and others are not quite there yet.
A certain amount of empathy will come into play as you work to understand the inner motivations and better yet, inspiration that will get an “outside looking in” individual and turn them into a strong, valuable, and indispensable member of your team. Handled properly, that team member will follow you for many opportunities to come.
A Servant Leader is “soothing and nurturing”. Your style may be completely different from another leaders’ style that part of your team has worked with in the past. Because of that, there may be old “wounds” that you may have to start handling with kid-gloves. Fully understanding what the past situation was will help you “get on with it” now…if you take the time to address it properly.
People inherently want to do well, perform well, and have a bunch of fun if you can get them back in their groove.
Understand the past, calming their concerns and nurturing, lifting them up is a great way to pull a team together. It’s an old axiom for a reason, “People care how much you know until they know how much you care!”
A Servant Leader is “alert and observant”. As the leader, you must keep a keen eye out on what’s going on around you within your organization, within your industry, and believe it or not, within the general entrepreneurial environment itself. Everyone expects you to know your company. It’s knowing the industry…and the overall marketplace that makes you a leader.
Servant leaders help their teams take the actions necessary when change comes into play…and the one thing that will happen is change.
Just when you think everything is running smooth and you’re ready to go with the flow, there is a bend in the river. What…where did that come from? You however are on top of it. Your scouts had already brought you the news and plans and tweaks are ready…well played!
A Servant Leader is “an influencer”. Coming from an understanding of you give then get, a servant leader works diligently to share a message of what will be accomplished, why it is important that it happens, and how it is going to be implemented. There is typically a certain amount of buy-in that must happen across a team, group or community.
We here in Texas are in the process of watching this very thing happen in front of our eyes. Hurricane Harvey makes landfall and then decides to stop and hover basically over Houston, and the southeast area of the state. The number of Facebook live “reports” of what is going on, who is in need and how you can help is phenomenal. There are so many servant leaders helping rescue and save people it is awe inspiring!
A Servant Leader is “a strategist”. To be a true servant leader, you must be able to see how all the pieces fit together and the strategy required to get them there. Being a conceptual value-added sales guy all my career, it has been essential to be able to understand fully all the players in game, what their respective roles are, how to include or exclude them appropriately, and then make the right presentation to the right person and the right time.
There are a lot of “rights” there. Far too often people work with someone that is not the decision maker and it ultimately wastes time, energy, and money. Having a proper strategy is critical when you are working to do good. A true servant leader can guide that process efficiently.
A Servant Leader is “a visionary”. There is a good training manual that says, “Without vision the people perish!” Isn’t that the truth! Being able to envision the future outcome, cast that vision to your troops, and can share it with them is such a way that they are inspired and ready to go for it is the sign of a solid servant leader.
Vision is being able to see the possibilities as if they are already perfectly executed and completed. Being able to create a mental picture that can be described, detailed, and shared with those you are leading is a real talent. The more vivid that vision, the better the chances it gets implemented perfectly.
A Servant Leader is “a care taker”. Knowing that you are in charge and ultimately have a responsibility to those in your charge is another key characteristic. Fully grasping the magnitude of what you are doing, how you are doing it, what it all entails, and how you will be thought of afterwards shows great leadership.
Your team, those you lead and all the resources you call upon to achieve the positive result you are going for are your responsibility. You are to steward over them properly and use that opportunity to teach once again those in your charge.
Accomplish your goals with dignity, honor, and respect of all you encounter in your tasks.
A Servant Leader is “a fisher of men”. I heard a saying one day and liked it so much I put it on my business card as a reminder to me, and all I encountered. It is, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime; train a man how to teach others to fish and you feed a whole village for eternity!
You’ve probably heard the first two lines, it’s the third line that really sets it in for me. It is “train a man how to teach others to fish…” It comes down to being a trainer of others so that they can teach and potentially even train more. When good systems, way and procedures are found, they should be shared everywhere for the greater good!
A Servant Leader is “the rallying point to a common mission”. Today more than ever, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Community is a huge motivator for so many because even though we live in such a technologically advanced age, people are texting versus talking and not really interacting.
A staple to human existence is having a relationship with another person, or many others, that have a common hearts and minds with desires like yours. It is no fun reaching the top by yourself…with no one to play with or enjoy the spoils.
A true servant leader rallies others to a common mission so one and all can participate in the victory!
Thank you for taking the time to invest in yourself and your desire to be a servant leader. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have made it to this point of the article unless you were serious about improving and becoming the best, you can be. I congratulate you for your desire to BE, DO and HAVE more in your life and career! If there is ever anything I can do to be of service to you, please feel free to call on me!
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