Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jodi Ashbrook on servant leadership. Jodi is a coach focused on helping people use their skills, talents, and energy to put their purpose into practice. Jodi is also a columnist at She Takes on the World, a site dedicated to helping women build thriving businesses and influential personal brands.
If you’re not familiar with servant leadership, it’s a philosophy and practice of leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf. In, The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf says the following:
“It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”
In this post, Jodi shares her story of transformation, as she learned what it means to go from leader-first, to servant-first. Without further ado, here’s Jodi ….
We get the opportunity to experience growth and transformation every day both as leaders in our own lives and as leaders for others. I love to lead and I have a passion for coaching others to achieve their best life. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing the light bulb go off in someone’s eyes. The light bulb is a signal that something connected. It’s growth.
Servant leadership is service first and leadership second. You first choose to serve a cause or people, and then you choose leadership as a way to serve. Servant leadership is an effective and rewarding path of leadership. It lifts others up. It is about creating and contributing value for those you serve. I learned this the hard way.
When I was first promoted into management, I was so excited. I thought that I could finally implement all the wonderful things that I had read about leadership, and that I could combine them with my own personal ideas. After six months, it was obvious that what I was doing wasn’t working. I was focused on my needs. I was focused on my fears and desires. I was focused on what I needed to achieve. I was focused on setting an example. After all, as the leader, wasn’t I responsible for making things happen?
Devastated and defeated, I went to my superior’s office. I told her that hiring me had been a mistake. I didn’t know how to lead. Without blinking an eye, she responded, “You are not quitting. If I didn’t think you were capable of doing the job, I would not have hired you. You are going to dig in, figure it out, and get it done.”
As I wiped my tears, I dragged myself back to the team. Yes, the same team that I had already decided that I didn’t know how to lead. I took a new approach.
I focused on them.
I focused on their needs. I really listened. I focused on their growth as the root driver to potentially achieve outcomes. As I removed myself from the equation, something miraculous happened. My team, for the first time, saw me as their leader.
Three Expectations of Servant Leadership
From that experience, these are the three expectations I learned to live by to provide the best possible experience for those that choose to follow me:
- It is not about you. It is about the people you serve. Their success is your success. Be mentally, emotionally and physically present in 1:1 and group coaching sessions. Meet them in their mind where they are in the moment. It is not about where you want them to get to, this is their journey.
- Be the leader you would follow. Live the message you expect of others. Model the actions and behaviors you want your team to exhibit.
- Know when to get out of the way. A strong leader of talent knows their people and their development needs. They are able to read the support and growth needs of their followers almost intuitively understanding when to provide support, empathy, motivation or situational coaching.
As a checkpoint, these are three questions that help me stay on track on my path of servant leadership:
- “How are you serving as an individual’s tour guide on their journey to growth?”
- “Would you follow you?”
- “How well do you know what your followers need and how are you providing this support?”
So many times, the answer in life is to look inside yourself. The surprise with servant leadership is that the answer is to look beyond you.
Where you put your focus is the ultimate key to your leadership success.
Jodi is a transformational coach and inspirational blogger. Her doctoral research focused on understanding the influences of life transitions and the impact to the human experience through confidence, thoughts about ability, and personal engagement. To learn more visit www.jodiashbrook.com and follow Jodi’s Guidephrase on Twitter @jodiashbrook.