What does a great leader look like on the inside and why is it important? In this five-part series, we will be looking at “Great Leadership from the Inside Out” … because what is within you as a leader determines what comes out of your leadership.
“True leadership emerges from one whose primary motivation is a deep desire to serve,” affirm James Sipe and Don Frick in their classic book Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership. In fact, they assert that:
“The best question to ask yourself is, ‘How have I served others today?’”
Why is this the best question? The value of asking the question has to do with mindset and focus. Asking the question orients your mind toward finding an answer: you want to “fill in the blank” with positive outcomes. That mindset places your focus on creating positive outcomes so that at the end of the day you can state with confidence, “Yes, I served my employees, my colleagues, my customers, my vendors, etc. in these ways today.”
The leaders that I (Rip) remember most – the ones who made a tremendous impression on me personally – were the men and women who were deeply service-oriented. They cared about the organization. They cared about their customers. They cared about me and my career. They viewed their responsibility as leaders fundamentally as an act of service.
We believe that this approach and attitude is particularly critical at this moment in time as companies face the ongoing challenges of the Great Resignation. In meeting after meeting with our clients, we discuss what leadership teams can do to become more successful in attracting top talent and improving the retention of their team members. Our experience is that people stay at companies when they believe in the mission of the organization and make a connection with other people. Mission and connection combine to build a sense of community, and it is service that is at the heart of both mission and connection.
Consider these corporate mission statements:
- JetBlue: “To inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground.”
- TED: “Spread ideas.”
- LinkedIn: “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
- PayPal: “To build the web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.”
- Asana: “To help humanity thrive by enabling all teams to work together effortlessly.”
What is common to all of them? They are all about service – serving people in transportation, education, networking, transactions, and collaboration. When leaders live into and live out mission statements like these, they are by definition engaging in acts of service.
Next, reflect on some of the many ways leaders can build connections on their team and in their company. They can:
- Facilitate clear, bi-directional communication
- Model authenticity and integrity
- Mentor and develop new leaders
- Mediate and resolve conflict
- Practice effective change management
- Create a culture that encourages engagement
Again, what is the common denominator? These are all, at their core, acts of service. Serving others entails connecting with others. With strong connections in place, people do not think that “the grass is greener on the other side.” They know they have the best situation right where they are.
One employee-owned company we work with has as part of its mission to “create an environment where every employee can reach his or her full potential.” The founder of the company believed passionately that by helping employees achieve their full potential through career growth, skills development, and a fun work environment, they would be naturally engaged with and gracious to their customers. This, in turn, would create a fantastic customer experience and ensure customer retention and revenue growth. The results over more than three decades have been outstanding: as the company leaders serve their employees, the employees serve their customers and the business prospers.
So there’s just one question that remains …
How have you served others today?