Servant Leadership and Command Decisions
I recently spoke at California State University San Marcos to a group of MBA students. I always enjoy my time with students. I learn so much from the questions they ask and the discussions we have after an event. Some attendees were slated to graduate in several weeks. The topic of my talk was servant leadership. The event was held in an information lecture setting and a faculty member interviewed me for about 20 minutes and the balance of the hour was spent in Q&A with the students.
Near the end of the hour, I had a question from a student in the front row. He asked about those times in a leader’s life when they need to push the organization forward; when servant leaders need to use their power to make decisions. He asked me, as CEO of Datron, how I handled those situations. It’s a great question!
What’s your motive?
My response started with it’s all about your motive as a leader. Yes, there will be times when a leader needs to make a command decision and tell the organization how to move forward. How you do this is what matters to servant leaders. What does that look like? Command decisions are not about you, they are about serving others. Your motive is focused on what is best for the organization, not what is best for individuals and certainly not what is best for you.
When you make what I call a command decision and tell your team what they are going to do to move forward, it is important that you take the time to explain why you are making the decision. There are times when the decision has to be made in a crisis situation and you don’t have time to explain yourself as a leader. When that occurs, always yes always, go back to your team within a short period of time and explain your decisions. Share your thoughts, what you considered before making the decision and why you decided what you decided.
Make it a teaching moment.
If you help them understand why, the next time you are put in the position to make a command decision your team will be better prepared for it. More importantly, when you do take time to explain your decision; your team will learn to make those decisions on their own. It is a form of empowering your team to make decisions without you, which is great. Command decisions are part of a leader’s life. As a servant leader, you always put others above yourself.
To conclude, as a servant leader, command decisions when made with the right motives will inspire and equip your team to be better leaders in the future. Make the command decisions, explain them, use them as teaching moments and make sure they focus on what is best for others. You will be amazed at the reaction you’ll receive and how your team grows from them. I have seen this approach work over and over again at Datron and we are a better company because of it.