What Is Servant Leadership?

My wife is Indian and when we were talking about leadership recently she recalled a story she was told when she was younger. There was a group of tourists that
14 Apr 2018 11:00
What Is Servant Leadership?

My wife is Indian and when we were talking about leadership recently she recalled a story she was told when she was younger.

There was a group of tourists that wanted to climb a mountain.

The route was hard and they had not climbed a mountain before so they hired a guide to help them.

They viewed the guide as a servant, someone who would do as instructed.

During the trek up the mountain the guide shared his knowledge of the mountain, its history and what it meant to the community.

On the way to the summit the guide led the way, walking ahead of the tourists and show­ing them the safe path to follow.

He answered all their questions and looked after them as if they were like his family all the way until they reached the top of the mountain where they celebrated together.

When the tourists came back down from the mountain the guide walked away knowing that his job was done.

In that moment the tourists realised that the guide wasn’t their servant as they had thought and in fact was their leader.

The best leaders are also servants

Leaders share their knowledge, they demon­strate the best path to follow and they accept responsibility for the safety and welfare of their team, caring for them as if they are like family and when their work is done the leader is happy to walk away.

The tourists realised that the man they had called a servant was in fact their leader, some­one who they trusted, believed in and fol­lowed willingly.

This is because Leadership is about being a servant to your followers.

Leadership is not about glory it’s about ser­vice

The typical organisational structure has the Leader at the top of the chart with the follow­ers listed below them.

The best leaders, I have ever worked with have the personal view that the organisation chart should be the other way around with the leader at the bottom with the responsibil­ity of being there to serve the followers.

They believe leaders exist in order to pro­vide their followers with the belief,tools and resources in order to go places they had not been to before.

Leadership is never about you

When things are going well it’s good to be a leader.

In times of success the focus is on the leader and their accomplishments yet this can cre­ate a false sense of belief within the leader.

They have to remember that they don’t exist without followers.

With no followers the leader is just an indi­vidual with an opinion.

It is the follower’s faith and belief in the leader and their willingness to follow that provides the leader with the power and au­thority needed to do their job.

Leadership is always about them and never about you.

Humility is a Leaders most valued quality

If you possess a range of skills then you will be successful and a valuable employee to your organisation but if you possess humility then you will become a successful leader.

As a leadership coach, I can teach leaders a range of skills but it’s difficult to teach them humility.

That comes from a leaders upbringing, the values instilled in them by their family, their community and their faith.

Not many people are leaders and very few are good leaders because leadership is diffi­cult.

Successful leaders at times need to act against their own personal interests, they have to put the needs of others ahead of their own personal needs and that requires a spe­cial person, it requires humility.

When he was elected President of South Africa after many years of captivity Nelson Mandela stood in front of his people and ex­pressed the type of leader he wanted to be­come.

“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.

“Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today.

“I therefore place the remaining years if my life in your hands.” – Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest leaders of our time, Mr Mandela understood that being a humble servant and being a strong leader are not sep­erate.

He knew that you can’t be a great leader without humility and the desire to serve.

When you go back into the office you need to ask yourself if you want to be the tourist or if you want to be the guide.

If your team wants to get to the top of their own personal mountain then you need to be prepared to show everyone the path to follow, be prepared to share your knowledge, be pre­pared to care for your team and be prepared to serve.

I will leave you with a question that you can ask yourself and that is not what your team is going to do for you but instead what are you as a leader is going to do for your team.

Mark Wager will be visiting Fiji in May.


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