If Serving is below you, Leadership is beyond you

At the risk of posting 'just another leadership' article, I wanted to share my thoughts on what leading with service means to me.

I recently posted the following quote: "If serving is below you, then leadership is beyond you".

Let's be completely honest, we could all think of people who had (or still have) leadership titles but are not leaders. I mean, would you follow this person into the trenches? More importantly, when push comes to shove, would you trust them to have your back?

I'm pretty sure the answer would be no when thinking of these individuals. So why is that?

In my experience, these individuals consider themselves to be above others, but like to pretend they are not. They like to act as if they are part of the team at times when it's convenient - like company town hall meetings when the CEO is present - but they don't know anyone's name in the team they represent.

I know of a COO who happily walks around the business with their mobile glued to their ear, and they believe this is engagement/collaboration. The perception is that their mere presence should be welcome. But all this demonstrates is that they are a suit with a title.

Similarly, I know of an entire executive team who when invited to participate in an exercise which brought them closer to the front line and the customer, did not participate. (Well, less than 5% did in the first month, but then not again after that and the program 'ran' for more than 12 months).

So why is this?

Simple. These "leaders" have forgotten, or possibly do not believe, that they are there to serve the people they represent. They have forgotten that they need to lead by example, and that example begins with selfless acts. It begins with passing on knowledge. It begins with embracing those who know more than you do. It begins with listening. It begins by genuinely being concerned about the wellbeing of each individual. It begins by leaving your ego at the front door and being open to opportunities.

When I speak to my many professional contacts in private, it's staggering how often this issue pops up. And in every instance, I am reminded of every employee engagement speech I've heard from a CEO. I am reminded how confused they seem to be at how results are so low.

And to demonstrate the issue here, 76% of employees in Australia are either disengaged or actively disengaged in the workforce. 76%!

Leaders are not fronting up to work with service in mind. From the top down, they are driven to activate a widget. An outcome. And if the focus is on the outcome and not on the levers that create the outcome, the behaviours that are rewarded are counter intuitive to a service leading culture. And if the top of the tree is not driving this, then change does not occur.

True leadership is selfless. It's about others. It's about action, not intention. It's about closing the gap between what you plan to do and what you do. And if you need a formula to work out how much work needs to occur, consider this....it's the size of the gap between your intention and your actions that is the size of the dysfunction.

Remember: It's not about you. It should not be about an outcome. The outcome will happen, only if you focus on why you wake up in the morning and do what you do.

Be brave. Lead with service.

John Stavrakis