With Transactional Leadership once you’ve discovered the value someone provides you begin to invest your time and energy in that person or idea. This is like any financial investment. You expect to get something in return. But that’s not really the nature of an investment is it? You’re not pouring money into an IRA in the hopes you’ll get a little something in return. You’re hoping for more than you risked in the first place. You gauge the value of your investment by how much compounding interest or residual income you are able to receive as a result of the risk you take. The same is true for transactional leaders. You invest in someone or in their idea because you’re convinced you’ll get more out of it than you put into it. But what happens if the investment doesn’t pay off? What happens when a leader invests in followers who don’t follow through? Think of the coach with the perfect game strategy leading a team of under-skilled players. It takes more than a winning strategy or remarkable talent. Both are necessary to win the game. We stop investing in others when we realize we’ll never get the return we’re looking for.
The Servant Leader approaches these relationships differently. Out of respect for the person, a servant leader chooses to meet that person where they are in order to take them where they should be. It’s not about an investment being made, but a responsibility fulfilled. As a leader you’ve been entrusted with the care of those you lead. When faced with an underperforming employee the Servant Leader recognizes an opportunity for growth. Conflict isn’t personal. It’s the resistance that builds the strength and the skill necessary to take the individual and the organization to the next level. Correction isn’t corrosive. It’s a reminder of the core values that define how we relate within this organization and what this organization is really all about. We serve by looking out for the needs of others and the needs of the organization we lead. For a servant leader no task is too menial, no job is too small. The transactional leader is focused on how to protect his investment. The servant leader is focused on meeting the needs of others.
Next time we’ll look at two more words to disrupt our leadership foundation. In the meantime consider the following:
- What are some practical ways you can better serve the people you lead?
- In what way is the idea of serving the antithesis of leading?