Service Leadership At Its Best

By Joseph Tan|20-08-2013 | 1 Min Read

When I typed the word ‘leadership’ in, it gave me a listing of 70,594 possible book titles. Another word, ‘servanthood’, yielded only 267 titles.

There is something that sells when you are promised the potential of leadership – rising up to the ranks and attaining the success you deserve.

What is the essence of authentic leadership?

Author Jim Collins says, “the key to successful leadership is a matter of intense professional will and intense personal humility.”

Many desire to enjoy the fruits of success, not realising that the right roots need to be in place first. Roots that grow deep in my life depend on how I respond when things don’t go my way. When plans fail, people disappoint and projects collapse, how can I even think about the possibility of success?

An attitude of service is the surest step towards promotion

It is interesting that when people need a motivational boost, the normal treatment is for others to affirm and praise you. You will then begin to have the good ‘vibes’ about yourself and the positive energy will start to flow.

I beg to differ. The way to overcome life’s adversity is not to boost up your leadership attitude. Rather, it is to submit yourself to a cause that is bigger than yourself.

Think about it – if you do not have a purpose in life that is bigger than yourself, then the only one you end up serving, is yourself. A leader who is self-serving is hardly leading at all – he is manipulating others for personal gain.

Here are three practical ways by which you can incorporate the practice of service in your leadership which will lead to a greater sense of personal humility (and the promotion):

1. Submit to authority

Regardless of what job position you have, there is one description that is common to everyone. You work to make your boss look good.

It is disheartening to hear lunch conversations which centre on griping and complaining about the “management” – the focus appears to be on making the boss look bad so that I will look good!

The practice of service requires that you put aside your own personal agenda, embrace your supervisor’s agenda as your own and begin to serve his or her objectives.

Eventually, you will begin to think and act like your boss and presto, when opportunity for promotion comes, your boss would want to pick someone who thinks and acts like him. Guess who will be the one ready for such a move.

2. Do someone else’s job

You are never going to go far in the company if the only job you care about is your own. The practice of service requires that you look beyond just meeting your own KPIs and think from the bigger perspective of advancing the organisation’s reputation and interest.

It is a paradox: the more you consider the needs of others, the more of your own needs are met.

Authentic success is achieved by helping others be successful. When a leader invests in the success of his followers, you can be guaranteed that this will eventually roll up to his own success as well.

3. Stop complaining!

A person who complains is never a productive one. Why do people complain? It is because they are not being served!

Never, never promote someone who constantly complains because you will then be exalting that person to the next level of incompetence.

The practice of service can never be expected from a complaining and whining individual.

So, are you still interested in being promoted to the next level of leadership? From the perspective of servanthood, the way up is to go down. Think about it.

Joseph Tan is a trainer who aims to equip leaders to achieve consistent results at work, at home and in life through the development of personal character and the discovery of unique strengths. Click here for more articles.

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Joseph is a Leaderonomics faculty trainer who is passionate about engaging with leaders to transform culture in organisations. Previously, he was CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. He is currently based in the United States
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