“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.
The difference manifest itself in the care taken by the servant - first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer , is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived?”
From the Servant As Leader published by Robert Greenleaf, 1970.
In order to be an effective leader, we must be servant first. When I teach this concept, my students frown, smirk, or make some strange noise. Why? Because the first thing one thinks of when hearing the word servant is being taken advantage of, being thought of as weak, or being walked over.
But this is not what Greenleaf was talking about when he coined the term back in 1970. He spoke of putting others' needs, not wants, ahead of our own. Thinking of our workmates as people, and not as merely "hired hands." That phrase came into use because that was all that was needed, hands; not minds, not hearts, just hands. This should not be the case today. Everyone has worth and value and should be treated as a unique expression of the Divine.
When we can see others as poeple with fears, desires, and goals, then we can treat them as such. But if we treat others as objects, only as a means to an end, then what will the relationship speak of?
This is one of the principles of servant leadership; to treat others as people of worth and value. Think of someone in your life who you absolutely value and would give any amount of time to and for. Someone you would move mountains for. Now think about how you behave around them. Now go to all and do likewise!
To lead is to serve...