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.
Last month, I discussed how the signature of a servant leader is about helping others grow. Seeking to become an effective servant leader will embark you into 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 with your own agendas, then your faith and persistence to succeed will be great enough to move mountains. In examining the motives and intentions in our objectives or goals that we strive to achieve, we are able to identify the 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.
This reminds me of a quote by seminary professor J. Carla Nortcutt: “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.”
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.
How we view others is a valuable measure of a servant leader. A respected leader truly values the opinions of his followers and has genuine concern for their success.
I agree with what William Cohen said in The Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership, “You become a leader by helping others to the top. Helping your employees is as important as, and many times more so than, trying to get the most work out of them.”
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 Mother Teresa, “In this life we are not called to do great things, but to do small things with great love,” and “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
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.
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