To lead is to serve

To lead is to serve:
“Shar McBee’s concept of ‘to lead is to serve’ emphasizes that if we expect others to give, we ourselves must set an example of giving. It’s pretty basic, pretty profound, but it is a concept and thought that has really stood the test of time.” – President George W. Bush

Giving and receiving are inextricably two parts of one whole like east and west, earth and sky, leaders and followers. The follower and the leader are equal, like the parts of a circle, because you can’t have one without the other. It is a 50/50 partnership. Without night there is no day. Without winter there is no spring. As the leader, if we succeed and then think that we did it all by ourselves, nothing will thrive.

In the same circular way, misunderstanding is a prelude to understanding. So, give people the space to err. When you are at odds with those that work with you, try appreciating their circumstances. It may require you to do something that appears to take you away from your goal. At the same time, it could bring you full circle, so that you can receive the results that you were wishing for.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive.” Understanding and using “to lead is to serve” in leadership and management will change your whole experience of working with people.

Here’s an example:
Bonnie Callens had a dilemma. She needed more time. When she was a successful wealth advisor, she had created a thriving career. Because Bonnie was accomplished at researching investments for her clients, her business did well. Still, she had a dilemma. She needed more time. If only her staff would take on more responsibility.

At first, Bonnie thought the solution was to hire more help, and yet, how could she possibly manage more staff members? The ones that she had took up all of her spare time. Every moment that wasn’t spent with a client, was spent putting out fires or dealing with a staff member’s troubles.

The hassle of staff squabbles can turn anyone into a big, bad boss which is why some entrepreneurs make the conscious choice not to expand their businesses. Bonnie recalls, “I thought all the service should go to the clients. I was always serving the investors, but with my staff, they were supposed to serve me.”

Then Bonnie attended one of our Joy of Leadership trainings. She says, “One great thing I got from it is that, as the leader, your staff needs to be served, too.” After that, she started sitting down with the person and said, “I’ve noticed you’re not quite yourself today. What’s going on?”

“The responses were excellent,” she comments, “Usually I found out something big was going on that I had no idea about. Often there was something I could do to help, but even if I couldn’t, expressing it changed the whole atmosphere. I always did this with my clients but I hadn’t extended it to my staff.”

A turning point came when Bonnie asked one young, single mother, “What can I do to help?” She found out that the woman was under a lot of stress at home so Bonnie offered her a choice of three stress relieving activities. One selection was a massage.

“It turned out that she’d never had a massage in her whole life,” Bonnie exclaims, “She thought it was the most wonderful thing I could have done for her and it turned her whole attitude around.” Bonnie was amazed when such a simple gesture changed the atmosphere in the office, too.

It is not mysterious talent that qualifies you for a leadership position. More often, it is your simplest gifts like your compassion or your ability to allow disturbing events to become beneficial. An unsettling incident can force you to find a better way and look at things from a fresh perspective. Adversity can make you shed rigidity and reexamine old ideas. It can make you grow and see wonderfully workable ways to solve a problem.

Success is a habit. Alternatively, failure is largely the result of bad habits. If you succumb to saying, “Poor me, my employees don’t support me,” you could spend years resenting, blaming, and complaining about them. Instead, create the new habit of attracting support by practicing gratitude and this leadership principle: To lead is to serve. It will help you remove blockages, overcome conflict, and energize you when you are exhausted.

Shar McBee’s book ‘To Lead is to Serve’ was written for volunteer leadership but we use it in our tech leadership trainings and our leadership for lawyers programs because it will empower you to make better decisions as a leader, helping both you and your team reach unprecedented heights of success together.

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