In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve officially entered the ‘time of giving.’ But it’s not about you. It’s about the service you provide to others.
It’s about community, and the greater good. It’s about giving. It’s about participating in causes and helping in your own humble way to raise awareness, not of you and your company, but to the needs of other people. While needs are not seasonal, helping people at this time of year traditionally heightens awareness, and with that awareness comes the need to contribute more. Acts of kindness and compassion become more meaningful.
But serving others is not just about writing a check to your local charity or serving dinners at the local soup kitchen a couple of times a year, although they’re both the right thing to do and are commendable. It’s more than that. It’s also about thoughtful things you do that demonstrate you are who you say you are, and how you let people know you care about things that matter to them. That’s not predicated by season. It’s something for all seasons, and all reasons. We have opportunities to shine every day, with our employees, with our customers and within our communities.
People matter. Your community matters. Whatever we achieve this year, is not only the outgrowth of our efforts, but the result of how people feel about us, based on our interactions with them, and how they see us interact with others. Feelings and perceptions are collected over time. It’s what keeps people coming back to us time after time. But it’s also fragile. It needs daily reinforcement to create the actual belief, and trust that goes along with it.
It’s part of what we call Servant Leadership. We define it simply as leadership that puts the needs of their employees, customers and communities first. Frankly, that’s the way it should be.
Servant leaders understand, it’s not about them. It’s about everyone else. They embrace humility. Their purpose is to serve.
Humility is a growth mindset and one that’s transformative. While some may fear that demonstrating humility would make them appear weak or vulnerable, the reverse is actually true. Leaders who face outward, beyond their own needs and to the needs of others, achieve the greatest impact and deepest connection to customers who have the ability to choose whose business they want to support. I believe the most meaningful conversation you can have with a customer is the one where you ask, ‘What do you need and how can I serve you best’? Another one might be, ‘How can I do better for you’?
Some say the greatest attributes of leadership are authenticity, wisdom, compassion, transparency, humility and service. I would add consistency to that mix. You can’t show compassion to a customer or employee one minute and show arrogance to another without sending mixed messages.
Some pretty great minds considered themselves servant leaders. Here are quotes from six of the best:
- “There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” – Mahatma Gandhi
- “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max De Pree
- “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” – Nelson Mandela
- “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton
- “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” – Bill Bradley
- “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” – Abraham Lincoln
There are many styles of leadership. Some say there are 7 defined types, others say 5, some narrow it down to 3. If you want my opinion, I would say that philosophically, there are only 2 types of leaders: those who serve themselves and those who serve others. Which type are you?