What is leadership? Leadership is a process of influence. Whenever you find yourself attempting to influence the thoughts and actions of others toward the achievement of a specific goal, you are engaging in leadership.
Taking that one step further, if you find yourself influencing others in such a way that the benefit of those you are leading takes precedence over your own self-interest, you are taking on characteristics of a servant leader. Seeking to become an effective servant leader will begin for you a journey of personal exploration that will challenge you to engage your heart, your mind and your daily actions in your leadership role.
When reviewing the heart of a matter, what matters is the heart. If the intentions in your heart are pure and untainted by self-serving agendas, then your faith and persistence to succeed will be great enough to move mountains. By examining the motives and intentions of the objectives or goals we are striving to achieve, we are able to identify those egotistical or self-serving characteristics or flaws that become obstacles to achieving our greater purpose in life. Emptying ourselves of selfish motives will enable us to perceive our fellow co-workers in a different light. This inner self-cleansing makes room for virtuous leadership traits such as compassion and concern for the well-being of others. We are promised that if we seek goodness and righteousness for the sake of others, we shall have all these things added unto us.
Thinking is a continually evolving process. Since we are what we think, we must constantly seek to improve our thoughts which, in turn, improves our performance and our behavior. Having the right mindset can turn adversity into advantage and will ultimately set our inner compass in the direction of true success. Not only must we empty our hearts of self-serving interests, but our minds must be cleared of counter-productive clutter. Our eyes are lamps to our innermost beings. To keep a lamp burning, we must continuously put oil in it; so, too, we must constantly set our sights on things of a higher nature. We must shun thoughts of worldly distractions such as pride and material possessions that cause us to lose focus of the pursuit of good things. How we view others is a valuable measure of a servant leader. A respected leader truly values the opinions of his or her followers and has genuine concern for their well-being, even to the point of sacrifice.
Actions speak louder than words, and servant leadership is first and foremost an act of service. The journey from good intentions to right thinking inevitably leads outward when the fruit of the heart and the mind manifest into action. The values of a servant leader are evident in the normal day-to-day activities. Let your life be an example of what you desire from those who follow you. In the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “In this life we are not called to do great things, but to do small things with great love.” She went on to say, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
We experience servant leadership in many natural aspects of our lives. One illustration is in the relationship between a parent and a child. A father, for example, serves his son out of love by creating him and sustaining life. This a father does for the sole benefit of his child. The son reciprocates his love and serves his father by honoring him and living his life in a manner that is pleasing to his father. This the son does, not for his own benefit, but out of respect for his father. The father selflessly loves the son, and the son selflessly loves the father.
Effective leadership begins interiorly with a hand in the heart and ends exteriorly with your heart in your hands. Servant leaders live their lives not for themselves, but for the benefit of others. In doing so, they inspire and create enthusiastic and loyal servant leaders around them.