Scouting is where I first heard about the importance of “Servant Leadership,” although I didn’t necessarily hear that term until many years later.
It came in simple phrases like “Do a Good Turn Daily” or in active work on community service projects. It came in admonitions and statements of core beliefs such as “He who serves his fellows is, of all his fellows, greatest.” In came in the recitation, at every meeting, of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. It’s been caricatured as scouts “helping an old lady across the street.”
In our cynical world, such ideas seem quaint — outdated. But are they really?
Think about the best leaders you’ve ever known. Did they expect others to serve them, or did they make it their mission to serve others, including their teams? Were they selfish or selfless? In my experience…
The Best Leaders are Servants First.
Robert Greenleaf wrote about this when he coined the term “Servant-Leader.” He said:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…”Robert Greenleaf – The Servant as Leader
Greenleaf goes on to describe more difference between those who demonstrate themselves servants first and those who style themselves as leaders first. That difference primarily flows from motive. While leaders may not explicitly state which is more important to them, don’t we usually know from their actions? How they treat us and others?
How about you? Is it your natural desire to serve, or are you more interested in being the leader with all of the supposed benefits that come with that? The order makes all the difference.
Great Leaders Serve First!