Are you taking a leadership role in your professional life? I don’t mean a position where you have manager, director or executive in your title.

I mean, are you actively serving your organization as a leader?

Are you taking your own ego out of the picture and working to serve the greater good of your organization?

If you’re not sure what your answer is, it’s time to consider your leadership style.

I’m just starting the Seattle Leadership Tomorrow (LT) program and the content has me so inspired. I couldn’t help but want to share it.

Leadership is a term that means a lot of things to different people so I’m offering a definition, specifically for Servant Leadership which is the focus of LT:

Servant Leadership is not about a personal quest for power, prestige, or material rewards. Instead, from this perspective, leadership begins with a true motivation to serve others. Rather than controlling or wielding power, the servant-leader works to build a solid foundation or shared goals by

(1) listening deeply to understand the needs and concerns of others;

(2) working thoughtfully to help build a creative consensus; and

(3) honoring the paradox of polarized parties and working to create ‘third right answers’ that rise above compromise of ‘we/they’ negotiations.

The focus of Servant Leadership is on sharing information, building a common vision, self-management, high levels of interdependence, learning from mistakes, encouraging creative input from every team member, and questioning present assumptions and mental models.    – Ann McGee-Cooper and Duane Trammell

In this definition of leadership, your title is irrelevant. You can be avoiding leadership in your own company or excelling in leadership in an entry level role. From CEO to first day out of college, leadership starts with the mindset.

I’ve seen leaders at organizations I’ve worked for strive to build up their own names. Every action they took was to ensure the spotlight fell positively on them.

But I’ve also seen leaders who don’t have a title that denotes any authority. And yet with their communication and listening styles and their day to day actions, they enact huge change. When these “nobodies” speak, the authority around them sits up and takes notice.

I’ve also seen managers and bosses who bent over backwards to grow and develop their teams. At times, they did it to their own personal growths detriment. By doing so, they inspired more loyalty, tenacity and productivity than their title alone could ever afford them. All because they led by serving instead of leading to bolster themselves.

In my Leadership Tomorrow class, it is amazing to see a 80 professionals (Over 50% women, ya’ll!) come together and strive to learn and grow into servant leaders. But leadership is a journey, definitely not an arrival. It’s a challenge. It requires commitment to settling into discomfort. It requires practice.

How to Begin Practicing Servant Leadership

Ann McGee-Cooper and Associates details how to begin this practice of leadership (starts at page 19) and it’s a pretty simple practice (albeit no means easy).

  1. Listen without judgement.
    Really try to hear what people are saying, don’t listen to respond or debate.
  2. Be authentic.
    Admit when you’re wrong. Be open and accountable.
  3. Build community.
    Find ways to appreciate those who work with you. Say thank you.
  4. Share Power.
    Breakdown mindless obedience and encourage risk taking. Ask others how you can improve.
  5. Develop People.
    Take time regularly to develop others. Coach and partner to build others up.

By practicing these 5 steps in your job setting, you can build up your “leadership muscle” and move from being someone “in-charge” to being someone who makes mountains move.

So, are you a leader? Are you striving to make an impact regardless of your title? Are you checking your ego at the door?

In my mind, Servant leadership goes hand in hand with knowing your worth. When you know what you bring to the table and you offer it up for the good of your community or your organization, you’re doing your best work. That is the highest and best use of your time and your gifts.

“We rise by lifting others.” Robert Ingersoll

The beauty in Servant Leadership is that there’s no one way to do it. There’s no right path to take to be a servant leader. You don’t need a title. You don’t need an authorized budget or a corner office. You don’t need to be any certain personality type. You just need to know how to offer your highest and best self to serve the greater good of your organization.

And that’s pretty awesome! Don’t you think?

Tell me your stories of servant leadership! Who is your favorite leader? How did they show their service?


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash