The feedback from posting “Most Admired Leadership Qualities,” was excellent. I shared the seven most-admired characteristics in a successful leader: integrity, servanthood, visionary, innovative, humility, persistent and balanced. At the suggestion of readers, I am now addressing them one by one. This is about servanthood.
Leadership is frequently about pyramids, org charts and chain of command. It’s usually top down. Authority and position. Some are important and some not so much. Who is over whom? Who gives direction to what? Effective leadership that is highly admired and followed—it’s different.
I volunteer in an organization where the leader isn’t afraid to get dirty with the troops. I’m a police chaplain. Our chief will quite frequently join the overnight shift and he will make traffic stops and take the role of back-up officer to calls for service. Some citizens (and employees) are quite surprised by his out-of-the-dark appearance. The community normally only sees the chief in the media speaking on behalf of the department. But he intentionally connects with the every-day lowest ranked cops who are protecting our city while often unseen, unappreciated and unrecognized. I call that leading from the bottom up.
When I think of servanthood leadership, I don’t think of a leader who spends all of their time doing menial work or a chief who only does the work of a patrol officer. I think of a leader who has an attitude that no job is too low for them and is willing to pitch in where needed. While use of one’s unique leadership gifts should never be wasted, mindsets of “I don’t do that stuff anymore” or “that’s for the rookies” is not the thinking of great leaders. Great leaders will do whatever it takes to move the organization forward.
I’ve discovered that authentic, effective and admired leaders always rise to the top through influence, not authority. Influence is always a result of caring for those you lead instead of coercing those you lead. And true followers follow out of commitment, not compliance. (See Upside Down Leadership).
Leadership is not about position, power, prestige and supremacy. It’s all about servanthood. The way to the top is from the bottom in God’s upside-down economy. Instead of taking, we give. Instead of self-indulgence, we self-sacrifice. Instead of going to the front of the line, we go to the back. It’s the opposite of what our culture screams. (For more).
Servant leadership is not focused on power, but it is powerful. It is not focused on making sure you are at the top, but it will cause others to want to move you to the top so they can follow you. It starts at the bottom, and regardless of where you are on the org chart, you have a heart that stays at the bottom.
QUESTION: What would you add to the qualities of a servant leader? Please share them. Thanks!