You probably do not dream of becoming a servant. Most people don’t. (It feels contracting.) You probably do like to be of service. That sensation is invigorating. Being of service feels like inspiration, joy, pure positive energy. I entitled my first book, To Lead is to Serve, and today, thirty years later, I still feel the title is magical and transformational.
To Lead is to Serve is an ancient and timeless leadership principle. The philosophy has been stated in many languages throughout the ages, all over the world:
• In Italy, Saint Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive.”
• The I Ching, a book of Chinese wisdom, states, “To rule truly is to serve.”
• The Upanishads, ancient texts of India, say, “If you want to be happy, be giving.”
• Jesus taught the lesson of To Lead is to Serve saying, “The greatest amongst you is servant of all.” Saint John describes how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and then said, “If I am your Lord and master, I have given you an example. If ye know these things, happy are ye that do them.”
• John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
At Joy of Leadership, we adhere to servant leadership principles when they apply to how you treat yourself. (Because how you feel about yourself reflects how you will treat your people.) Enlightened leaders respect and align themselves with their own inner power, remaining balanced and centered, not subject to the whims of every passing storm.
In our “Leadership with a Twist of Yoga” leadership development program, we use the Mountain pose to illustrate this. Picture a mountain. It is not intimidated by a storm. It surrenders to the circumstances and remains stable. Learning the yogic “Mountain Pose” and the philosophy behind it will help you avoid the pressure that comes with challenging situations. There’s no need to act prematurely in a predicament, or jump to your first conclusion. When you learn to be still, standing steady and quiet like a mountain, you won’t have to grasp for the quickest solution.
Being steady gives you the ability to link your goals with your teammates. Another President of the United States said, “Power consists in your capacity to link your will with the purpose of others.” – Woodrow Wilson
A dynamic team is like a beautiful bracelet. No matter how exquisite the jewels may be, they become a bracelet only when each gem is securely linked. As the leader, your job is to be sure that all the links are secure. A pile of loose, individual gems is worth far less than a finely crafted piece of jewelry. In the same way, a lot of individual players are worth far less to your organization than a well-organized team.
Look for ways to make your team feel connected. When teamwork is strong, good ideas will bubble up to the surface. Your challenge is to link all of your independent individuals into a united team. The stronger the connection, the more the group will be able to accomplish.
Servant leadership principles are easy to put into action because they only require a small shift in your thinking. If you are thinking, “What can I get out of these people?” on a subtle level they will feel it and their natural tendency will be to put up a defense.
Instead, if you are thinking, “These people need something. What is it? How can I help?” invariably they will feel your good intention and drop their resistance.
Why be enthusiastic about servant leadership training? Because to be of service will make you happy. As Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Albert Schweitzer said:
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Check out our leadership development trainings. Our mission is: More joy. Better leadership.
Shar McBee, author of To Lead is to Serve and Leadership with a Twist of Yoga