Servant leadership is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot in the business world. It’s a term that I think often gets lost in translation.
Some people interpret being a “servant” as having to spend all of your time helping other people. Instead of pursuing your goals and doing what makes you happy, you have to follow others around all day and try to help them be better.
In short, your dreams suffer while you help other people get ahead.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
To me, servant leadership is about helping everyone, including myself. In my experience, helping others to succeed is the best way to guarantee your own success. Let me explain.
Start with humility
It all starts with humility.
Before I can submit myself to others as a servant leader, I have to be able to submit to someone above me. If I don’t submit myself as a servant to a higher power, then I’m definitely not going to be able to be a servant to others. For me, that higher power is my savior, Jesus Christ.
Humility also means admitting that the world does not revolve around me. I don’t know if there is a better example of this than David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby. The way he serves others is a reflection of the way he serves God.
In the same way, if I don’t serve our people well, then it’s not going to seem like I care about my Christian values, either. To be a servant leader, you have to be accountable as well.
If you take care of other people, a natural byproduct is that they take care of you, too. The key is being genuine about it, not manipulative.
There are two things that can kill a business: Egos getting out of check (when people don’t value the contributions of others), and greed.
Whenever we lose the value of others and lose the value of their impact, a natural byproduct of that is we start getting greedy. That’s why it’s important to stop the progression early on.
To avoid egos and greed, you need to have something that inspires you to see value in others. My faith and my relationship with Jesus accords a great deal of value to the people around me. Without my faith, it’s just about me.
Remember, servant leadership is a team effort
The most important thing about servant leadership is remembering that it’s not all about me.
I recognize that I have not built this company alone. Without our incredible corporate leadership team, managers, field leaders, field support team and supportive spouses, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They are all working hard, making sacrifices, and excelling.
To become a better servant leader, you really need to understand that the only way you’re going to have success is if the people you are leading have success.
If they don’t succeed, you don’t succeed. If you help them become wildly successful, then you could be wildly successful. The way you succeed is to make others successful. The best way to be selfish is to be selfless.