The Servant Nature of Leadership

Have you ever been misdiagnosed by someone when they thought you weren't trustworthy?  They doubted you or your motives or something you did or said.  I'm not talking about people who don't trust you for valid reasons, but something you don't understand.  You mean them no harm, but it seems that they are afraid you are a threat.

We all have a radar built into us for our own protection.  We notice body language and voice tone.  We compare words to actions.  If we decide someone is using us to get what they want, we tend to resist.  We doubt their motives and we process every thing they do, every request they make, and every action they take through our mental filter.  We begin filtering for more actions to justify our impression of them.  After a very short while, if we're not careful, we only look for evidence that will convict them of being out-for-themselves.  And the more evidence we find the more we filter.  Eventually it is extremely difficult for that person to change our perception of them.

When your team, organization or business thinks you're looking-out-for-number-one, they withhold energy and commitment from the effort.  They believe they must look out for themselves.  They don't think you will look out for them.  The loss of trust creates an immense obstacle or a heavy weight for your group's performance.  That lack of trust creates friction.  And that friction opposes the creation of a healthy, vibrant, successful team. It creates heat any time you try to get something done.  Left alone long enough and your team will become more and more dysfunctional eventually locking up from the heat and wear and tear.

Trust lubricates relationships

Trust lubricates relationships.  Service creates trust.  Leaders who serve their team find their service lubricates the relationships and frees everyone up to do their best.  When your people feel looked-out-for, they are free to give everything their best effort.  Like a golfer with a grip that's just too tight, tension reduces freedom of movement and hampers performance.  Service creates room for coworkers to relax and do their best. All of the moving parts remain cool. Service reduces fear and friction and enables relationships to grow.  Many people who feel cared for also feel free to care for others.  Now you're multiplying the lubrication.

Sensing friction in your relationships? Serve your people and oil the gears of the team.  You'll see tremendous benefit from small things.  Fill in for them on a painful task or sacrifice something for them and you will break the tension.  Serving others gives them the assurance that they're going to win.  You can't have win-win unless your stakeholders win.

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Note: This post originally ran on Dr. Jack King's Northfork Center for Servant Leadership as Frictional Coefficients.