Ask Before You Lead – How to be a Servant Leader

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Recent articles and posts on Servant Leadership are intriguing to the point of where we now acknowledge as the future for leadership. Servant leadership is not a new concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” Wise words that are being adopted more and more as organisations look at positioning project leadership. The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The idea of servant leadership is to serve those and allow them to lead. Doing this more and more is focused on serving those that we lead rather than manage those that we lead?

That is all good and makes sense to build on the philosophy of leadership but should also be conscious on understanding the needs of those that we serve? Our experience of servant leadership has shown that we are great at demonstrating leadership values but maybe we don’t always appreciate or understand the style of leadership to be adopted. This has led us to the philosophy of ‘Ask Before You Lead’.

Given this view of leadership, it does not mean it needs to be a power-play of where the leader is now the point of authority, but rather about understanding needs and desires. Here are 5 very uncomplicated way of asking about leadership and the way the team / people should be served:

  1. Ask the reason for being here? It can be so easy to start planning a project simply because you feel like you have to and miss the very simple question as to why you are here. As the project involves other people and cultures beyond just yourself, it’s so important to identify what you actually hope happens. Once you have a shared purpose and goal, you can start heading in that direction.
  2. Who and how will you benefit? With servant leadership, we can focus on personal growth and development. It’s only natural you would take these things into account. As you go and serve, do everything you can to keep the people you are serving at the center. But by keeping these people at the center, be sure they understand how they can benefit and also who will be benefiting. There is nothing worse that proclaiming that ‘we are all winners’, such statements will be seen through immediately.
  3. How do we see ourselves? There’s a natural tendency when we set out to serve to believe the work we do is going to “save” the community, and without us, all hope would be lost. Unintentionally, we start to see ourselves as “heroes” because we have time and resources to give to people who need them. But this can be further from the truth; remove the halo effect and focus on how people see themselves and the project.
  4. How can we do it better? Being open to changing the way you serve will improve your project in different ways. Ask good questions. Make sure you take the project relationships seriously and they are at the center of your thought process.
  5. Why does any of this matter? Take the time to develop a philosophy on leadership by adopting core principles for your project which inform exactly why and how you serve. Show the potential of good leadership by focusing on the growth of those around you (and around them).

Servant leaders expect a lot from people because they believe in them. Servant leaders hold people accountable and they stretch them so the team member never has to look back and regret giving less than his or her best. To do this and achieve the goal for the project, servant leaders. Why you might ask; the vision of a servant leaders can be very different from the vision of what is a required from a servant leader.

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