This article is reprinted from Leadership Wired by Dr. John C. Maxwell. I highly recommend The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. It is written in fable form, which is very popular among leadership books these days; so it is very engaging and easy to read. Notice the acronym: SERVE.
After Princess Diana was killed in a tragic car accident, 2 ½ billion people tuned in to watch her televised funeral. Not only Great Britain, but the entire world, mourned her death. What accounted for the public’s emotional attachment to Princess Di?
Certainly, royalty and beauty attributed to Princess Diana’s popularity, but something else connected her to the hearts of people across the globe. Looks and lineage may have landed her on magazine covers, but Princess Di had an endearing quality that gave her even greater appeal. Princess Diana was beloved because she was a servant leader.
For centuries, royal families epitomized self-serving leadership. Comfortably removed from the day to day troubles of those in their kingdom, they enjoyed opulent wealth and absolute power. Princess Diana broke the stereotype. She leveraged her popularity to lend support for AIDS research, to care for those with leprosy, and to ban land mines. In fact, the force of Diana’s compassion was so influential that Time Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.
Five Practices That Help Leaders Serve Others
In their valuable book, The Secret, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller shed light on the practices that enable leaders, like Princess Diana, to serve others.
1. See the Future
Leaders have a compelling vision for the future stirring inside of them. The vision makes plain a leader’s identity, direction, and pattern of behavior. To affect the future, a leader spreads values throughout an organization.
These values are core beliefs that become the cornerstones of organizational culture. A wise leader publishes the values so that they can be repeated, recognized, and rewarded.
A leader cannot delegate the responsibility to see the future. They may share the responsibility, but ultimately, it’s the leader’s job to make time today to ensure the direction of tomorrow.
2. Engage and Develop Others
To create the future a leader envisions, he or she must have the right people, in the right roles, fully engaged to their work. Everything that you will accomplish as a leader ultimately hinges on the people you have around you. As the Law of the Inner Circle says, “A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him or her.”
Sadly, many people’s talents languish on the job because they are disengaged. Likely, the greatest waste in business is human potential. Leaders pull out the potential inside of their people by inspiring and motivating. They are quick to offer opportunities for growth, be mentors, or equip their employees with resources.
3. Reinvent Continuously
Great leaders reinvent continuously on a personal level. They are always interested in ways to enhance their own knowledge and skills. The very best leaders are learners. They realize that if they stop learning, they will stop leading. A leader sets the tone of the organization. If they cease growing personally, then the majority of those they lead will become stagnant as well.
Reinvention is critical to survival. The solutions to problems of the past are inadequate to address the demands of today. Leaders must have fresh, innovative thinking and new ideas to respond to the challenges the organization faces.
4. Value results and relationships
When it comes to results and relationships, the best leaders take a both/and approach. A focus solely on results demoralizes the team, while an overemphasis on relationships undercuts the bottom line due to conflict avoidance and an absence of accountability. The greatest leaders make friends and profits.
Leaders earn relational capital, and put it to work to gain results. As the Law of Connection states, “leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.”
5. Embody Values
All genuine leadership is built on trust. Leaders build trust when they establish, articulate, model, and enforce values. In short, they walk the talk.
If I say customers are important, my actions had better support that statement. If I choose to live as if customers are not important, people will have reason to question my trustworthiness. And in the final analysis, if I am deemed untrustworthy by my people, I will not be trusted – or followed as a leader.
To lead is to serve,