This week’s post was written by Scott Peterson.
Servant leadership is one of Interstates’ most important principles, and it’s one of the scariest to write about. Why? It’s simple; I don’t want to be (I can’t be) the poster child for servant leadership. I can’t live up to the standard of a servant leader. I will mess up, make mistakes, and become selfish, just to name a few of the reasons.
Modeling servant leadership is a journey, not a destination. That might sound cliché, but if the goal is to be a servant leader, then how others perceive you becomes too important. Your ego becomes the driver, which, in turn, makes you less vulnerable and more self-centered. There is an old saying that warns us if someone tells you to trust him or her, beware. Actions really do speak louder than words.
For me, giving up the finish line of becoming a servant leader was a freeing step. It allowed me to have the right mindset, which includes putting the focus on others, because it isn’t about me (or you). It is about helping, serving, and leading others.
Modeling servant leadership has four aspects of equal importance:
- Show agape love to all people, but especially to your people.
- Listen to others in a way that lets them know they’ve been heard. This empathy shows them they are important and their ideas matter.
- Be curious about what is going on with the whole person (professional, personal, wins, struggles, etc.).
- Focus on helping, supporting, encouraging, and leading others. You will watch them develop, grow, and succeed – and few things are more rewarding.
- Enable people to reach new heights by helping them through challenges. You can also help indirectly by offering ideas and suggestions, but not solving problems for them. As Jim Franken used to say, “Help people help themselves.”
Be Approachable and Authentic
- Share personal information (beliefs, frustrations, feelings, stories, etc.). This allows others to get to know you and builds strong relationships.
- Embrace your strengths, weaknesses, mistakes, and goals by sharing them with your team. This transparency will model humility. There’s a quote from The Purpose Driven Life that says “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
- Have enough self-confidence to ask for others’ opinions. Keep this door open so that people are willing to share their ideas with you.
Do the Right Thing
- Be a good steward of our people and of the company’s resources by making the right decision, which is not always the popular or safe decision.
- Place the needs (not wants) of others above your own.
- Although servant leadership is hard, focus on what is best for everyone, and always remember why you’re leading.
Interstates is blessed to have so many leaders who have excelled at modeling servant leadership. Darrel Ramhorst was one of those people. He was a quiet leader; most of the time, he didn’t get much attention, and he was okay with that. I was always amazed by how Darrel led. One of his strengths was his ability and desire to teach people and help them grow. His servant leadership took on the form of helping hundreds of people pass journeyman tests or PE exams. People wanted to learn and meet those goals. They knew how much Darrel invested in them and cared about them, and they did not want to let him down.
The best Interstates leaders start with a caring heart and a strong desire to serve others. Learn from them, and then make the journey your own. Remember, servant leadership isn’t a status that you achieve – it’s a way of doing things that needs to be practiced every day. Enjoy the journey of modeling servant leadership. It will have some highs and lows, but it will be one of the most fulfilling journeys you’ll ever experience. Choose to lead the Interstates Way by modeling servant leadership today, and then choose to do it again tomorrow.