Leadership : Are your people better off when they leave than when they got there ?

David Wee is Founder & CEO of DW Associates and the Asia Speakers bureau. He is the primary developer of Entrepreneurial leadership and creating new space in a crowded market™. 

Email david.wee@pacific.net.sg and website dwassociates.blogspot.com 

What it takes to be a servant leader

In today’s ever changing and often turbulent economic environment, you are facing challenges that your predecessors would not have been dreamt about. How do you ensure that you have the leadership tools and strategies on hand to ensure you come out on top ?

Any time two or more people are gathered together for a purpose, an organization exists and there is an opportunity for leadership. There are many thousands in leadership positions today know that they are failing their people and desperately desire help in developing effective leadership skills. Many have long ago recognized that the old ways of leading through command-and-control and barking orders are largely ineffective when working with a diverse workforce. Excessive command-and-control styles create fear and undermine trust, which ultimately destroys relationships and growth.

The good news is that the skills of servant leadership can be learned and applied by most people who have the will and intent to change, grow and improve. Leadership and life are about people and relationships. In Fortune’s recent installment of the ‘100 best companies to work for,’ more than one-third, thirty-five-plus organizations, are involved in the servant-leadership movement.

There are far too many ‘managers’ concerned about doing things the right way and looking good for their boss rather than striving to do the right thing for the people they lead. Becoming a servant leader requires a great deal of motivation, feedback, and extended practice, as does any worthwhile discipline.

Leadership is not management. Management is what we do. Leadership is who we are. Leadership is influencing people to contribute their hearts, minds, spirits, creativity, and excellence and to give their all for their team. The servant-first make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.

Legitimate leadership, influence, is built upon serving, sacrificing, and seeking the greatest good of those being led. Influence does not come because of a title or an army. Influence must be earned. There are no shortcuts.

Anytime we extend our-selves, sacrifice, and serve others, we build authority and thereby influence. If you get your people what they need, they will get you everything you need. Then leadership will be defined not by what we accomplish but by what we get accomplished through others. The servant-leader must constantly ask: How can I use myself to serve best ?

Honour people by showing them that you are sincerely interested in them as people and not just in what they can do for you or your organization. Honour people by insisting upon excellence in all they do. Honour them by helping them build their character and being best they can be. Not everyone can generate sales like Wal-Mart or profits like Microsoft, but every person and every organization is capable of being the best they can be.

Leadership requires selflessness. The will to serve and sacrifice for others, the willingness to set aside our wants and needs in seeking the greatest good for others – this is what it means to be selfless. This is what it means to be a leader. The road to servant leadership lies not in trying to fix or change others but in working on changing and improving ourselves. ‘Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change himself.’

The good news is that human beings are bundles of habits. The bad news is that human beings are bundle of habits. Habits can be changed, and they can be changed for the better. We can choose to be something different than we are today. It is never too late to learn and grow. If you are too old or lazy to learn and grow, then you are too old or lazy to lead.

The goal in developing our leadership skills is not to be perfect. The goal is continuous improvement. Rather, change and continuous improvement are about .ore or less. And better or worse.’ It is important to keep encouraging one another and cheering one another on so that people do not get discouraged and give up.

Everyone can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. 

The ultimate test of leadership is this: Are the people better off when they leave than when they got there ?

© Copyright 2007 David Wee

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