What is the leader truly after? Success for a people, an organization, a country, or success for Self?
The barometer for any leader (that is, who they truly serve) will be seen in the degree to which they can build consensus and instill a cooperative environment. The leader whose heart is in service to others will move effortlessly into this realm and stay there. The leader whose hear is in service to Self will make only the most superficial stab at creating such an environment, because in a cooperative environment the Self-serving ruler runs the great risk of having credit fall to others.
What makes Consensus-Building and Cooperation the go-to mode of the serve-others leader is that they rely on an organization-wide focus on the processes and actions that lead to organizational performance, its success or lack of success. These modes by their nature de-centralize decision-making and allow people at all levels the opportunity to do what aids and abets improved process performance. By this I am not suggesting that people are “empowered” and “self-directed” to make changes, but changes can be suggested at any level, evaluated in terms of their effect on the process, and attempted as evidence suggests they are viable.
The leader’s principal role becomes to (initially) create the consensus: that is, establish the understanding about how the organization will operate, and that anyone’s success will rise and fall with their conformance to a particular way of operating rather than their conformance to the leader’s desire.
Once consensus is established and cooperative momentum is developing, the leader’s next role changes to sustaining the cooperative environment. This involves providing the time for development of workers at all levels in the methods of process analysis and communication. It also involves maintaining open communication in all directions. It also involves ensuring that all people, especially those in “mid-management” roles are not permitted to engage in behavior that suggests service-to-self. And of course the leader must walk the talk.
And–here is where service-to-self types are exposed–the cooperative leader is quick to provide recognition and reward for the process successes achieved by workers, teams and departments. It is impossible to stand in the middle of a spotlight you are shining on someone else. When the organizational environment is built on letting the process dictate direction, the “glory” is diluted. To the leader dedicating to “servant leadership,” his/her satisfaction is maximized when employee satisfaction and process excellence are maximized.
Such leadership requires that one check their ego at the door. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for too many.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue to discuss servant leadership and its implications.