The Real Battle of Leadership

In a recent video post, I shared the 5 word secret to servant leadership…. "It. Is. Not. About. Me!”  These five simple words are easy to add as a daily mantra or prayer to ground you in servant, other-oriented leadership; however, behind those five simple words is a fierce battle.  It’s an unseen battle that is waged in the trenches of the everyday and mundane tasks of work and life.  It’s a battle that happens in our marriages, our families, the grocery store, our volunteering and most definitely in our leadership. The battleground is our hearts.  Servant leadership is a matter of the heart and our hearts are inherently selfish, self-interested and ask the question, “What about me?”  I wish it was as simple as deciding to be a servant leader and not a self-serving one so the matter would be settled.  The decision may become easier over time, but it’s a decision you have to make over and over and over and over again.  The truth is that we come into this world with self-serving hearts.  So the battle is waged daily, moment by moment, between our intention to be other-oriented in life and leadership and our nature to be self-serving.

John, manager of customer service, feels in a rush so he brushes over an idea an employee has about a customer compliant and tells her exactly what to do.

Sally, VP of technology, and her team just completed a massive implementation and she “forgets” to acknowledge her team in front of her peers as they praise her work.

Jack’s wife is a doer, always-in-motion person and he decides to sit back and read the paper because he doesn't want to get in the way.

The choices that John, Sally and Jack made seem harmless and easily glossed over, but they each reveal the state of their hearts in that moment and if the battle being waged in their heart continues to be won by the self-serving nature, a compounding effect takes place that includes resentment, mistrust and “checking-out” by those being led.

There is no easy answer and the battle will continue throughout your life’s journey, but here is a formula to help fight and win the battle.

Self-Awareness + Intention + Action

  1. Self-awareness - Be aware of the state of your heart and the fact that there is a battle being waged.  Stop denying it and face the facts
  2. Intention - Make a clear, decisive choice to be a serving, other-oriented leader and person and reaffirm this throughout the day with the words, “It’s not about me.”
  3. Action – Through study, mentorship and skill building, add servant leadership practices to your tool kit and put them to use

Where or when do you most experience the battle between self-serving and servant leadership?

What most challenges your intention to lead through serving?

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