Sinead O’Connor’s new album makes me wonder if you remember the story about how I learned the lesson of “To Lead is to Serve.” I was in charge of a big event when the ushers became overwhelmed.
About 5,000 people showed up – many more than we expected. As the number of people increased, the ushers became overwhelmed and were not doing a good job of seating them quickly and courteously. The ushers had been trained to treat each person respectfully but, as the crowd grew, they forgot that a crowd is still made up of individuals.
I thought they were treating people like a herd of cattle, so I met with the ushers in a private room and began pointing out what they were doing wrong and what they should be doing. Later, my supervisor called me and asked, “What did you say to the ushers?”
“I pointed out how they should do the seating properly,” I replied.
She inquired, “Did you ask them if they had eaten lunch?”
At the time, I was taken aback by her question. It never occurred to me to ask if the ushers had eaten. I realize now it was my ego. I was in charge, after all. My reputation for putting on a successful event was on the line.
To mis-paraphrase Sinead O’Connor, “I was the boss. It was my job to be bossy.” Unfortunately, that rarely works.
Here are some leadership tips that I learned from this experience:
- Align with people rather than opposing them.
- Respond, don’t direct.
- When you try to rule instead of serve, a struggle ensues.
- Being receptive to people attracts exceptional results.
- In the long run, we are all in this boat together. To cross the stream, we need all hands on deck. Only when you are free of selfish ulterior considerations, are you capable of getting all hands on deck.