A chair will not stand if one or more legs are missing. A Servant leader will not lead effectively if one or more of the legs are missing.
Leg 1: The Heart of a Leader
Genuine Servant leadership starts from the heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV. Everything we do flows from our hearts. The way we treat others is a reflection of our hearts. Our empathy flows from our hearts.
Leaders that have fallen in history are leaders without a heart. These are leaders driven by greed, self-centeredness, arrogance. These eventually lead to their downfall. The bigger the ego, the higher the fall.
Protect your heart from pride and fear. Pride blinds leaders into thinking that they know everything. It makes them stop listening to outside views and advice. Prideful leaders end up judging an idea based on the person saying it instead of its merit. Prideful leaders don’t even bother asking for the views of people several layers below them. That is unfortunate since these people are the ones closest to the ground. Our rank and file better understand clients and markets than the corporate suits sitting in their executive offices.
Fear, on the other hand, distorts the reality of the leader. Fear of losing his seat will cause a leader to make the wrong decisions. Fear of looking silly in the public’s eyes will make a leader please the people instead of doing what is right. Fear fuels arrogance.
I am not ashamed to say that I admire our Pasig City Major Vico Sotto. Ask any of Pasig’s residents; they will attest that he is a Leader with a heart. Mayor Vico is a walking, talking example of a true Servant Leader. A Leader with a big heart to serve his followers.
Leg 2: The Mind of a Leader
Servant leadership has a cerebral aspect to it. A great leader can craft a clear, concise vision that is bigger than the company they lead. They draw an image that paints a picture of a better society. The company they are responsible for is only a player in the mission for this greater good.
In this mission, the Servant leaders identify the values their employees need to exhibit. The leadership of the company then exemplifies these values. These values are part of the screening process for new hires. These values are part of the leadership appraisal process.
Servant Leaders are clear about their purpose, their reason for being. They embrace their purpose and live up to it. They also understand that employees also have a reason for being.
Leg 3: The Behavior of a Leader
Psychological safety is a significant concern of a Servant leader. They understand that their behavior affects the way people behave. Establishing psychological safety in the workplace encourages others to voice out their ideas. People are not afraid to make a mistake. Employees have the confidence to debate topics with higher-ups without fear of reprisal.
It does not matter what a leader says; it’s his behavior that counts. You hear stories of leaders saying that their people are their most important asset yet fail to behave accordingly. When times get tough, the first budget they cut is the training budget. Stories about loyal employees devoting years of their life to the company but not recognized or rewarded are commonplace. Instead, it’s the employees that suck up to management that climbs the corporate ladder.
Servant leaders spend 80% of their time developing people, selecting the right people, providing constructive feedback. They don’t spend 80% of their time criticizing their staff, micromanaging their leaders. They don’t bring down people; they bring out the best in them. Servant leaders do not pass or fail people. Servant leaders help people excel.
Servant leaders understand that they cannot build great companies on their own. It’s arrogance for a leader to say he drove a company to success. A great leader develops great people. It’s great people that build great companies.
Leg 4: The Habits of a Leader
Servant leaders make a consistent, courageous decision. They have the habit of sticking to what’s right and not what’s popular. A Servant leader has formed the correct habits from the first three legs. They don’t have to think about being empathetic or not; They are automatically empathetic. It’s second nature to them.
It is typical for them to ask questions when they do not understand something. They don’t have to hesitate for fear of looking fooling. Servant leaders are fueled with humility day-in, day-out.
Servant leaders are the same at home, in the office, with friends, with strangers. They are genuine. Their values do not change even in the heat of problems. The Vision of a Servant Leader is always top of mind.
A Servant leader’s gaze is always on the greater good. They are reliable. They are consistent.