Management and business trends, fads really, come and go with a seasonal regularity. Once in awhile, one sticks. The process itself is interesting. The trendy part is the words, rhetoric, and flash around the core idea. Sometimes the ideas are simply ones dreamed up by a academic with far too much time on their hands; on other occasions the concepts emerge from serious research or reflection of what actually works in the business world. In the midst of the hype of the moment it is hard to spot the difference between what will stick what will be gone in the very near future. One trend that appears to be sticking is the idea of “servant leadership”.
Servant leadership sticks because it works. The idea has moved away from the headlines and buzz to an underground movement where people really believe. Ironically people in other areas have picked up the concepts. Examples include sports, politicians, and a wide range of disciplines where relationships and teamwork are integral to success. Yet for many leaders there is a reluctance to talk about the principles, much less model or explain how it works.
The problem lies in the heart of what it is. Servant implies service with a twist. The twist involves doing the greater good without thought for how one personally benefits, being a true team player, and letting go of the near for attention, recognition, and reward.
When I think of great examples of servant leadership I find those who others tried to stomp on and out. Jesus example to those he mentored was one confusing example of his time. The scribe records that “he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.” (John 13.5) When I look to other great leaders – Shackleton, Gandhi, and virtually every spiritual leader – I find service and servant-hood at the heart of their preferred style of leadership.
P.G. Wodehouse’ character Jeeves is a butler who is the real hero. I wonder; will I go for status or true leadership? It’s Jeeves.
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