As we bring our 7 Sides of Leadership series to completion – the seventh side of leadership as outlined in Pat Williams’ book, Leadership Excellence is serving – and that is the hardest dimension of leadership for many people to grasp. There are many five– and six-sided leaders in the world. They’re good at what they do, but they fall just one or two notches short of true leadership excellence.
What are they missing? They lack a serving heart.
The other six sides of leadership are nouns:vision, communication, people skills, character, competence, and boldness. But the seventh side of leadership is a verb – an action word: serving. When a leader SERVES his subordinates, team, or clients, that leader is taking action.
We have not attained positions of leadership and authority merely for the purpose of dominating our followers and subordinates. We lead people in order to actively serve them.
The traditional organization business model is depicted as a pyramid, with the leader at the apex and all the underlings and drones spreading out beneath. The leader is the boss, and everyone beneath exists to serve the leader, the leader’s goals, and even the leader’s whims. But serving leaders stand the pyramid on its head. Yes, the leader still has authority, they are still in command, still takes charge; but the people in the organization no longer exist to serve the leader. The leader exists to serve the people.
In order to achieve a leadership vision, everyone on the team or organization must be willing and ready at all times to sacrifice. We must be able to sacrifice comfort, sleep, safety, financial gain, reputation, and individual goals in order to achieve the common good, the common goal, and the common vision. There is no serving without willingness – even eagerness – to sacrifice. That is the life of a serving leader.
What’s old is new again. The serving-leadership model of the future is also centuries-old wisdom from the past. Even though bosses still boss people around today, many LEADERS are rediscovering the most ancient, most effective, most powerful leadership model of all: a serving heart. Only leaders who serve should serve as leaders. Leadership is serving, and serving is sacrifice.
One of the most ironic and paradoxical truths of serving-leadership is that if you set your ego and ambitions aside and become a true servant to your people, you can become a great leader. But you have to mean it. You have to be the sincere and humble mindset of a servant, or it will all just be a meaningless pose.
Throughout this series, I have given you my cliff notes of Pat’s book but nothing compares to reading the full book yourself. Be sure to check out Pat Williams Leadership Excellence. It is a quick, easy read as he tells many stories and gives great examples.