How would those you lead define your leadership style? Outside of potentially labeling you as good or bad, would they say you excel in communication and relationships, would they say that you are autocratic or authoritative, maybe they would they say that you’re primarily interested in setting goals and meeting the organization’s established targets without regard for people? Ask yourself: do you serve others so that they can do the work, do you empower them, or do you take control and manage people closely? It’s important to know your style, your preferences, and your shortcomings.
At TheSchoolHouse302, a fundamental aspect of our leadership paradigm is servant leadership. As Greenleaf, the godfather of servant leadership, once said, “the servant leader is servant first…the natural feeling that one wants to serve [others]” (1977). We subscribe to it, work to model it, and it underpins all of our materials, resources, models, and presentations. But, we draw a unique distinction between servant leadership and service leadership.
Servant leadership is about empowering others, not using power over them. This style flips the-leader-at-the-top mentality upside-down so that serving others is at the heart of leading to fulfill the mission of the organization–enabling those who the leader serves to best fulfill their role and to maximize their potential. Although the phrase servant leader was coined in the 70s, leaders possessing this mentality and style can be found in any field throughout the centuries.
But, we do make a major distinction between servant and service leadership. As we define it, service leadership differs from servant leadership in that service leaders are actually serving the needs of others by providing a service that would not otherwise be available. Service is then defined as helping or doing work for someone, or as one of the three U.S. Air Force’s core values states, “Service Before Self…An Airman’s professional duties take precedence over personal desires.” Service leaders are teachers, public servants, philanthropists, volunteers, and anyone who is in a position to fill a void for someone that they can’t otherwise fill for themselves. The best service leaders are by nature servant leaders, but not all servant leaders have to be providing a service as a public good.
Let’s take, for example, Scott Kammerer, who we interviewed for our #onethingseries leadership podcast. Listen here if you missed it. Scott is both a servant and a service leader. As an entrepreneur and a restaurant owner, he embraces the spirit and the attitude of a servant leader and uses his influence and opportunity to be a service leader as well. He’s the President of SoDel Concepts and the founder of SoDel Cares. So here’s how we draw our distinction. Not all restaurant owners are servant leaders. A restaurant owner could easily be an authoritative micromanager, who uses pressure without support, and even shaming to advance his goals. The opposite is the servant leader, clearly Kammerer’s philosophy, who leads people by identifying their strengths, lifting them to new heights, and empowering them to accomplish great things. In fact, Scott talks about getting out of the way so that people can exercise their greatest strengths, living by the vision of the company. That’s true servant leadership.
But, Scott doesn’t also have to be a service leader. He’s the founder of SoDel Cares, which is a charity organization that gives money to assist children, at risk youth and adults, and the elderly. Their mission is “to contribute in a positive way to the communities where we do business.” SoDel Cares is a service leadership project that makes Scott not only a servant leader but also a service leader.
Lastly, we imagine that someone could be a service leader but not a servant leader, although very unlikely. We doubt that too many dedicated service professionals have an authoritative approach, assisting with a need in the community but doing so in a dictatorial way. It’s possible, but not probable. In any event, we believe that leaders should “serve first” as Greenleaf put it, and in growing your service leadership mindset, we have four areas that need attention to be a true service leader in your organization.
TheSchoolHouse302 Four Ps of Service Leadership
With that said, this month we’re focused on service leadership, and our 4 Ps are a model to help your organization with a stronger service-oriented approach to leading better and growing faster.
#1 — People First.
Our philosophy is that we care about people first. ~Mark Zuckerberg
Angie Morgan, leadership expert and former officer in the United States Marine Corps, details in the book Spark an incredible story of where she was put first while in The Basic School, learning to be an Officer of Marines. Essentially, after the death of a loved one, her captain went above and beyond to ensure that every little detail was covered and taken care of for Angie, all prior to breaking the devastating news to her, which is custom for a captain to do. She explains that at that moment she learned “…to be a leader you can be tough, you can be aggressive, you can have demanding standards–but if you can’t be compassionate, empathetic, and caring, you’re never going to build a team of people who feel valued and connected.” Service-based leaders put their organization and their people ahead of themselves. They embrace the notion that to truly reach for and exact the vision of the company and live out the core beliefs, the people must feel valued and appreciated through the actions of the leader.
Challenge Question: How are you putting people’s needs above your own?
#2 — Clear Priorities.
The overwhelming reality is: we live in a world where almost everything is worthless and very few things are exceptionally valuable. ~ Greg McKeown
Ray Wang is the CEO of Constellation Research and the author of Disrupting Digital Business. He calls for companies to flip their thinking about priorities to include “strategic differentiation.” He tells HBR readers that priorities can “create game changing transformation” when we adopt social enterprises. Wang doesn’t say these “social enterprises” have to be service-oriented projects, but in a service-based leadership model, we believe that one of the differentiated priorities should be “giving.” Making contributions outside of your traditional priorities will improve the spirit of the organization and the passion that people have for doing the work. Simple examples include philanthropic endeavors to raise funds for charity. More sophisticated approaches are to organize a group for a Saturday soup kitchen volunteer experience or even giving people time off (trading work time) for volunteer efforts that are pre-determined by the organization. In any case, differentiating priorities to include something that is philanthropic and outside the traditional scope of work will instill a positive attitude and sense of pride that are also part of this model for service leadership and certainly “exceptionally valuable” to the lives of people.
Challenge Question: What is your organization doing to give back to the community?
#3 — Positive Attitude.
Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. ~Lyndon B. Johnson
Having a positive attitude is a fundamental way to approach life to confirm that you are mentally available to “see” opportunities. As a leader, it is critical to move forward each day with a positive mentality. Please don’t mistake having a positive attitude for a pollyanna, blind-to-reality, view on life. As Tony Robbins says, you can’t stand in a garden and tell yourself, “no weeds, no weeds, no weeds” and expect that to prevent weeds from growing. Rather, our view of the power of positivity rests on the fact that much of our interpretation of our surroundings–the events we attend and the situations that arise in our lives–are a result of our perception. The key is being guided by positivity rather than negativity–the idea that each moment in life has the potential for greatness, not the opposite. This approach has two primary benefits: One, it requires you to be mindful of all the great things going on and not just the issues that often plague us. Two, it keeps in check how we should react to situations. As Dr. Dennis Waitley writes in The Psychology of Winning, “…it makes little difference what is actually happening, it’s how you, personally, take it that really counts” (1979). We realize that the daily grind makes this approach challenging. But as Viktor Frankl, Nazi camp survivor, reminds us: one of the last of all human freedoms is to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances (2006). The power is in the control we have over both our attitude and our effort.
Challenge Question: What steps can you take to be sure that you and others in your organization view experiences through a positive lens?
#4 — Beneficial Pride.
Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. ~ Khalil Gibran
Sometimes pride is less than beneficial. In fact, it can tear us apart, create dissent, and lead to arrogance, anger, and narcissism. But, pride can be beneficial as well. Psychology professor David DeSteno says that “while researchers long thought that all emotions inhibit self-control because they tip the mind toward valuing immediate pleasure, newer research suggests that certain emotions, including pride, do just the opposite: they nudge the mind to be more patient and future-oriented than it would otherwise be” (2016). DeSteno’s research is not specific to service leadership, but it does show that when people are proud, in the same way that when people have gratitude and compassion, they tend to see value in what the future holds. This is an important aspect of service work because it means that instilling pride in people helps them to value the efforts they’re making for others toward a better future for all of us. To evoke pride in your team, DeSteno says, leaders need to give specific praise about a measurable task. When we praise people effectively, they feel the pride needed to continue the work, persisting longer than they would without the praise.
Challenge Question: Do your people feel proud about the work they’re doing and are they future-driven about the value they add to your community?
Service leadership is the result of having a heart for and a desire to do for others what they might not otherwise be able to do for themselves. It creates a greater sense of community, and it works for the betterment of our society as a whole. The greatest service is the giving of oneself to realize a world that we believe in and that we work toward. Service leaders support, develop, and build people through The 4 Ps of Service Leadership.
That’s our #SH302 model for Service Leadership. When you put people first, have clear priorities, work with a consistently positive attitude, and generate beneficial pride, you’re a service leader. If you want stronger service or servant leaders in your organization, don’t hesitate to contact us, we can help.
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TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.
Daschler, J. (1977). Service vs. servant: Attitude makes the difference. Golf Business.
DeSteno, D. (2016). The connection between pride and persistence. Harvard Business Review.
Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.
Greenleaf, R. (1977). The servant as leader. Indianapolis, IN: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.
It’s our promise to protect. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.airforce.com/mission/vision
Morgan, A., Lynch, C., Lynch, S., & Smith, F. (2018). Spark: How to lead yourself and others to greater success. New York: First Mariner Books.
Morgan, A. & Lynch, C. (2017). How the U.S. Marines encourage service-based leadership. Harvard Business Review.
Waitley, D,. (1979). The psychology of winning: Ten qualities of a total winner. New York: The Penguin Group.
Wang, R. (2015). To jumpstart growth, flip the company’s priorities. Harvard Business Review.