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Monday, September 24, 2012

Servant Leadership

In a meeting this week,  I heard someone speak of their passion for the concept of servant leadership.   The image of a servant leader is obviously someone who puts others above themselves.  It completely aligns with my definition of true leadership in that real leaders make more leaders.   True leaders are focused on the growth and development of others, not themselves.

Because of this reminder of the power of servant leadership, I revisited a book about the topic, The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader, by James Hunter.

I think some people struggle with the concept of servant leadership because let's face it, we are all driven by self interest. If you think you aren't, then you're lying to yourself.  I think others struggle with the concept because it conveys an image of almost a "softy", of a benevolent person that puts others above self and because of this, doesn't have a backbone.  

In Hunter's book, I was struck by a quote by Colin Powell that speaks the second difficulty with the concept.

"Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally 'nicely' regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization."  

Servant leaders don't strive to treat everyone the same.  They strive to serve others by helping people capitalize on their true strengths and talents. Sometimes this means distinguishing between great performance and poor performance which means making difficult choices to respond appropriately to poor performance.  

Next week I'll talk about how poor performance can be addressed, by emphasizing that by seeking to improve performance you are acting as a servant leader to all your people. 

What other difficult choices do you see servant leaders having to make?

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