SERVICE LEADERSHIP is not any single action. In fact, it is a personal journey to connect and lead with those around us. Based on our research, these are the actions (in order of importance) that Service Leaders take to look after their own needs and while being in service to those around them.
Service Leaders understand the power, privilege, and intention we carry and how they impact our relationships. Being in service to others must be grounded in equity and a genuine interest in meeting the needs of others, not imposing our ideas on them. If we are feeling like a hero for serving others, we have lost focus on why we wanted to get involved in the first place.
Service Leaders talk less and listen more. They know the more they listen, the more they learn and the faster they can make an impact. As we authentically invite other voices into our spaces, conversations and thinking, the better and more efficient our decision making gets. And, with the learning we have done through our listening, it is easier to understand how we can best support others’ success.
We have been conditioned to think that having the answer makes us important (and it sure makes us feel needed!). Service Leaders know different. Asking how we can support those around us is best for the Service Leader and those they want to serve. Everyone saves time, energy (and pride) when we invite others to drive their own car and ask how we can help navigate.
Service leaders are honest about what they are serving. Is it a person? An idea? Our own ego? Understanding and clearly communicating what you are in service to will let you stay focused on your ‘why’ even if your ‘how’ has to change. That focus is also an opportunity to invite others into your efforts and find a connection around a common goal especially if others want to achieve that goal through different approaches.
5. Contribute (don’t sacrifice)
Being in service to others is a privilege, not a burden. Yes, Service Leaders compromise, put others’ needs ahead of their own and step back so others can step in. They do not, however, blindly sacrifice their physical, mental or emotional well-being for the sake of showing how good and generous they are. In fact, to ensure they can continue to serve, Service Leaders constantly focus on their own health and wellness. Service leaders are happy to hand over credit, power and attention but only if it brings about real change or enables someone else to find success. There is no room for martyrdom in Service Leadership.
6. Think Long Term
While today is important, tomorrow is where the real victory lies. Service Leaders know the pressure that ‘urgent vs important’ puts on decision making and are constantly reminding themselves and their teams not to lose sight of what is next. Worrying less about today makes it easier to let ‘the little stuff’ go and imagine better things. It also keeps those not-so-great days in check. Because something better will come tomorrow.
Hard truths need to be told and it is the job of a Service Leader to tell (and hear) them. Service Leaders communicate as clearly as possible, even when delivering (or receiving) bad news. Our job is not to make others happy. Our job is to model the power of courageous conversations and the positive change that can come from being uncomfortable.
Leaning into service is scary. Standing out for standing back is confusing to some and seems contrary to what many families and organizations expect from their leaders. It can also feel threatening to our own success. Service Leaders know that when they actively think about those around them they are showing vulnerability and are no longer ‘the’ expert. They also know that is where great service and change starts.
9. Manage Energy
Being in service to others can be draining. Service Leaders are always watching their energy levels making sure they are putting more fuel in the tank than they burn. Looking after our own physical and mental wellness (along with openly accepting the many personal and external rewards we get from serving) is the fuel that allows us to give to others without burning ourselves out.