Servant Leadership in Service to You

June 27th, 2012 by Kelly Kienzle

The philosophy behind servant leadership is a humble one: help others do what they need to do. Yet, as a leader, adopting this philosophy can also help you. The reason is this: In difficult situations, you can overcome your fears if you think first about what others need.

By focusing outward on the needs and solutions for others, you draw yourself away from your own doom-and-gloom loop that you may be in. You give yourself another perspective, a small distance removed from yourself, that allows you to see clearly and perhaps with a bit more courage.

Think of a lighthouse standing on a rocky coastline. It is projecting its light out to others in the dark so they can make safe passage. The lighthouse does not shine its spotlight on itself. Its function is to help others navigate the tough situation they are in. The result is that more ships come safely to shore.

How can this be applied in your workplace? Let’s imagine you are in your next progress review meeting. You have bad news to report to your team on your part of the project. How can you shift out of your doom loop and instead think first about your colleagues?

Here are some thought-starters:

1. Ask yourself how you can you take the perspective of your boss or other team members to see how this news will impact them. How can you first help them?

2. Note how this shifts the focus from “My project is sinking – – come rescue me!” to: “My project needs some help. What is your biggest concern about that?”

3. Ask your team some questions to get the gory details:

•  “Tell me all the various ways this project will impact you. Which of those are important or urgent?”
•  “What are the different ways we can lessen the impact on you?”
•  “What would you change if you were leading this project?”
•  “What do you most need to happen with this project?”
•  “What originally excited you about this project? Does it still?”
•  “Have you been involved in something like this before? What did you do to fix it?”

4. Finally, tell them you have heard them and thank them for their input. You have given their interests priority and noted their suggestions for remedy.

They will now feel they are closer to the friendly shores knowing that the dangers have been identified and new courses have been recommended.

As for you, you gained three positive results:

1. You have shifted your attention away from your fear and towards serving the needs of others.
2. You have a list of ideas for fixing the problem, all of which have been aired to your whole team.
3. You have successfully engaged the support of your team when you most needed it. In fact, you have each become a servant leader to one another. (Read my other article about making everyone on your team a leader.)

Try being a servant leader in your next tough situation, then write to me about the outcome at How did it change your perspective? What new options did it open up?

I hope this article has been of service to you.

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