Leader, Know Yourself

How do leaders build credibility with team members? I believe credibility happens when leaders act on their primary responsibility to serve team members.

Servant leadership is not easy to do in today's dog-eat-dog, me-first business environment.

Yet we've all had great bosses that embraced their role to help team members succeed, to feel good about their contributions, and to feel trusted and respected in their workplace.

In fact, when working for a boss that cares and serves, employees' engagement increases, production increases, and service to customers increases.

How can leaders get themselves into a servant leadership space, day in and day out? By formalizing their personal constitution.

A leader's personal constitution is a formal statement that specifies their personal purpose, their values and aligned behaviors, and their leadership or influencing philosophy.

Let's look at these elements more closely.

A life purpose statement must clearly and succinctly describe what talents you offer, to serve whom, and to what desirable end you are working.

Here is my current life purpose statement:

"To use my expertise and passion to inspire and encourage leaders to clarify their personal values and create workplace dignity."

Your life values and behaviors specify the principles you believe in and that motivate you daily. These are values that you strive to demonstrate daily and that you'd like to be known for. Each value needs a crisp definition that expresses exactly what you mean by this value.

Here is a value and definition from one of my clients. The value is respect, which my client defines as:

"I admire the people I live with, work with, and play with. I actively honor their qualities, values, skills, and hopes."

Next, you must specify the behaviors you will model to live each value. Behaviors make your personal values observable, tangible, and measurable.

The behaviors my client noted for her respect value include:

  • I treat others, at all times, with dignity and honor.
  • I do not blame. I look for ways to solve problems and learn so we don't make the same mistakes again.
  • I do not use crude language, act rudely, or discount anyone in my life - family, friends, work colleagues, or customers.

The last element of one's personal constitution is their leadership or influencing philosophy. We are all leaders, no matter our role. We act to rally others towards meaningful effort and accomplishments - or we act to do something less.

A leadership philosophy is a values-aligned statement that helps you inspire consistent effort, performance, and authentic positive relationships with those you interact with daily. Your philosophy statement describes your beliefs about leadership and what people can expect of you as you act on these beliefs.

Mark Deterding is a friend, a proven business executive, successful leadership coach, and experienced consultant. Here is his leadership philosophy:

"I believe in being a humble servant leader who is absolutely persistent on driving improvement. I ensure clarity of purpose and vision and then create an environment that allows for that vision to be effectively carried out. I do this by clear communication, and empowering and developing people to allow them to succeed. I value relationships as well as results, and work to embody my values in all decisions and actions.

People can expect the following from me:

  • A listening ear to understand the dreams and desires of the people I work with.
  • A clear picture of where we are going.
  • A structure that provides for challenging yet achievable goals and objectives.
  • Direction and involvement based on a person's level of knowledge and commitment to the task.
  • An environment that fosters worthwhile work, allows people to be in control of the goal, and positive recognition.

By being very specific about your personal life purpose, values and behaviors, and leadership philosophy, your chosen service path will be very clear.

Staying on your path is the fun part. Share these elements with the people you interact with. Ask for their help in staying on your defined path. Ask for their feedback regularly. Listen and refine your behaviors to model your personal constitution.

You just might find a team of engaged, talented team members working right beside you.

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