Servant Leadership Made Simple

August 31, 2012

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I'm Deb- CEO, worldwide executive coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. I'm here to help you take your leadership and impact to the next level!

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Let’s talk about three types of leaders.

There is the leadership dictator.
He gets the job done but leaves a wake of low morale.  His people follow him, but only out of a sense of fear and resentment.  He demands respect but breeds contempt.

There is the friend. 
This is the leader who is loved by everyone, a “buddy” to all.  This is great, except that when it comes time to make tough decisions and enforce policy, this leader will find he has something in common with the dictator – he is not respected. This renders him ineffective.

There is the third kind – the most effective kind.  This is the servant leader.
Though this sounds like an oxymoron, like two different ends of the spectrum, it is not.  A true leader is one who serves.  This leader gets the job done and does it with the love AND respect of his people.

What are the hallmarks of a servant leader?

1. He has confidence.  
This is not the braggadocio confidence exhibited by the dictator, which only makes the team feel intimidated.  This is a quiet confidence that comes from knowing the job and what needs to be done, knowing the people and their strengths, and knowing the resources needed to find answers to issues.  This is the kind of confidence people rely on when times get tough.  It’s the leader who can calmly and quietly take charge in a crisis and provide guidance to his people.  A servant leader makes the team feel secure and empowered.

2. He puts others ahead of his own agenda.
Unlike the dictator who is all about himself and what’s in it for him, and the friend who really has no agenda, the servant leader has a plan but he is careful to be considerate of his people.  He uses his work to build his people and not his people to build his work.

3. He seizes the opportunity to increase how he can serve.
A dictator wants to be served by his people.  But a servant leader will look for opportunities to serve his people.  He will find ways to reward their hard work and recognize their efforts.  He will provide the tools for them to do their jobs with greater ease and efficiencies.  When needed, he will roll up his sleeves and get to work right alongside the team.

4. He has a genuine care for the members of the team.
We all know employers who declare their greatest assets are their people but don’t mean it.  A true servant leader will genuinely care for his people.  And the fact is, his people will reciprocate.  I’m thinking of a business owner whose factory burned down.  With great personal sacrifice, he saw to it that all his employees received paychecks until the factory was rebuilt and they could resume work.  You can imagine the loyalty of that workforce for the man who did this.

Think about the leaders you’ve known – the good and the bad.  I venture to guess that the very best leaders on your list are servant leaders.

And now for the big question:  
Which kind of leader are you?
  1. piercemarrs says:

    Great reminder Deb. thanks for this post.

  2. Terissa Miller says:

    Wow, this really makes me think carefully about my leadership as a Mom. The big kids are growing, maturing so quickly, and they are certainly part of ‘the team.’ I wonder how often I miss opportunities by not treating them as such.
    When they are little, Mommy is more ‘the dictator.’ And as they get older, perhaps I try too hard to be ‘the friend.’
    But if I can understand they are ‘team players’…what a difference that could make.

    Thanks for the powerful insight!

    • Deb Ingino says:

      Teri great point! Parenting requires us to be leaders to know our team, bring out their best and help them grow.

      Frankly you and Kevin are great examples to so much of what makes great parenting possible.

  3. David Sollars says:

    Great post Deb. You have done a masterful job by leading us to our own self selective answers, while outlining the choices from such a personal and practical way.

    I resonate more with the servant leader model, which I was fortunate to witness from my parents and grand parents throughout my early years. I didn’t think of it at the time, not much on my mind in those days, yet the lessons of service to others and fueling your actions with passion and committment to a common value have emerged in me as an adult.

    One set of grandparents were ministers and missionaries. There was always a crisis of money, materials, personel and global events that seemed to have an impact on how others acted on their faith.

    My other grandparents owned their own business and come to think of it, the same set of challenges listed above did apply to their life and business as well.

    Deb, you outlined it very well in your post by pointing out how confidence, acting on opportunity, creating an “other” focused agenda, which is wrapped in genuine caring for those we serve. When you’ve been lucky enough to see it done, then you forever understand the confidence that rises during challenging times when a leader embodies the passion and purpose of their life.

    I’m sure your readers have seen these qualities modeled in their lives. I’d like to hear their stories.

    Thank you Deb for another excellant post.

    • Deb Ingino says:

      Thanks David and what a wonderful story about your grandparents.

      I remember when you and I met, and I saw how committed you were to serving I was inspired!

      As we reach certain successes in any area of life, it would be easy to think we have done our part but those of us who have serve or do serve know that the biggest payoff is using what we have to help another.

      I love love love watching you in action albeit from afar and I love your question about stories.

      So readers….care to share your stories with us right here?

      Thanks David!