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To Lead Is To Serve

One of things I love about leadership is that every leader is different. You can have multiple styles of leadership and still reach the desired outcome. If you were to read books on good leadership qualities, you would usually see factors like influence, decisiveness, integrity, trust and productive communication. These are all excellent qualities of a leader, but I want to share what I believe to be the sine qua non of leadership effectiveness.

I learned many lessons as a young leader. As a result of focusing so much on me (self-serving leader), I failed to get the results I was desiring. I had a title and I thought that was all I needed. I thought because of my title everyone would follow me and respect me. I didn't think leadership was something I needed to work hard at. I had already arrived. As a result, I paid some big prices in my life. Like every failure or struggle, there is always a lesson to learn and grow from (if you are open to learn from it).

I was blessed, in that, I had some great leaders who cared about me enough to confront me about my selfish attitude and prideful arrogance. As leaders, we need to be able to recognize people who are not performing at their greatest level and provide support and feedback to them. I had no idea I was failing as a leader and hurting my team because of my pompous attitude.

When I teach and train leaders today, I always ask, “Are leaders born or made?” While some people are natural born leaders, the vast majority of effective leaders learn throughout life to improve and become better. One of the best lessons I learned was that it is not about me. When I made the transition from valuing myself (self-serving leader) to valuing my people (servant leader), I was transformed as a leader. My mentor John Maxwell, in his book "Everyone Communicates, Few Connect" writes, "When we learn to turn our focus from ourselves to others, the whole world opens up to us." When you understand this and take the focus away from you, it will change who you are as a leader. This is the true mark of Servant Leadership.

It can be a hard concept to grasp, to serve another person who is supposed to be serving you. But the true secret to great leadership is if you give people what they want, they will give you what you want. And in order to add value to others (Servant Leadership), you must first value others. This is the key to leadership effectiveness.

In servant leadership, it is important to view your people as your biggest success. A good leader supports those around them. Your focus should be on developing them, helping them succeed, and watching them grow into the people they want to become. When your people are successful, it is a reflection on you as a leader. Work hard on serving and supporting your people. They are your biggest asset. Without them, your team and outcome cannot be realized.

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