The Journey To Competitive Advantage...

Through Servant Leadership

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From The Book:    The Journey To Competitive Advantage Through Servant Leadership

 

Chapter Four

DNA of a Servant Leader

 

As I stated earlier in the book, I believe certain people are born with the God- given skills, talents, and abilities needed to develop into a servant leader. Those skills can either be developed or wasted, depending on the paths they choose and the decisions they make during their life journey. Some people will find their purpose early in life, some may take longer, and others will miss it all together. I believe servant leadership is developed and nurtured as we move through life, developing our character and strengths, fighting through our weaknesses, determining our priorities, all moving us toward finding our passion and God’s purpose for our lives. We are all designed for greatness by God. The question is where we look to find it and what we are willing to sacrifice during our journey to take hold of it.

 

In this chapter, I discuss what I believe to be part of every servant leader’s DNA. It’s what drives the servant leader to discover their purpose for impacting people’s lives and to devote themselves and their careers to helping people and companies accomplish some amazing things while working together. It’s what helps to hold a servant leader steady when life seems to be coming at him or her fast and furious.

 

So there is no confusion, I am not a psychologist, PhD, or researcher with any scientific proof for what I’m writing in this book. I’m sharing what I have learned, experienced, and observed in myself, and also the many leaders I have worked with during my business career. My knowledge and beliefs have also been impacted by working with and observing many servant leaders in churches and nonprofit organizations, who have made serving their lifelong career or as unpaid volunteers. My opinions and thoughts have also been developed by working with, leading, and listening to the many people who really get the work done each and every day in businesses throughout the country.

 

 SERVANT LEADERS’ DNA

  1. Relationship with God
  2. Care About People
  3. Stewardship
  4. Communicator
  5. Humble
  6. Positive Attitude
  7. Encourager
  8. Motivator
  9. Influencer
  10. Accountability

 

 

1. Relationship With God (Discovering My Own Purpose)

 

While talking about God in business books is something some might discourage, I cannot write about servant leadership or my own journey of growing as a leader without including my relationship with God. I believe each of us has been created by God with a special purpose for our lives. Many of us will spend a lifetime trying to find that purpose and then work to develop and nurture it. God has equipped every person ever created with the skills, abilities, talents, and personality for that journey of discovering and fulfilling our purpose. Most of us will struggle to find that purpose. Or at least I did. I struggled, and still do, with what is important to me and the priorities for my life. I believe it’s very important that we each search for and find the purpose God planned for us. Lesson Learned: Finding God’s purpose for our lives is what will bring us the real success, joy and happiness that we all seek.

 

The struggle for me was trying to determine what real success and happiness looked like. When I was younger, like many before me, I thought success was about money, big cars, job titles, and accumulating stuff. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, when I got my first leadership promotion, it was about the raise, the title, and looking good to my friends. It had nothing to do with people or the impact my leadership could have on those I led. It was all about me and what I wanted.

 

My first big encounter with finding my purpose came in 1986, at the age of thirty-six. I had just taken a new job with a division of a Fortune 500 company as product manager. Again, it was about the money, the new job title, and working for a big company. The only downside about taking this job was moving from Charlotte, North Carolina, to a much-smaller town in eastern North Carolina. Soon after moving, my wife and I started attending a small church, figuring not much would be going on, and we could hide. Boy, were we wrong. Soon after we started attending regularly, the pastor asked me to teach a vacation Bible school class of junior high boys and girls. I had never taught in church or to children, but I thought this would be easy, until I got the book they wanted me to teach: Hormones in Tennis Shoes. Well, I taught the class and was popular with the kids, because I told them more than I should. But the parents weren’t happy with me, because I did tell them too much. But I survived and learned that I loved teaching, because you could get instant feedback from the people you were teaching.

 

A few months later, they asked me to teach the junior high Sunday school class permanently, and I said yes. I loved teaching, and for me—who never really liked school too much except for sports, hanging out with my friends, and being social—this was unusual. As for my job as product manager, that was going well, and I was starting to learn about helping people achieve their goals. I was promoted to sales and marketing manager for the company at age thirty-nine.

 

The light bulb was starting to come on for me, as I enjoyed teaching Sunday school more and more. I was now a deacon in the church, and my wife and I were responsible for the Sunday school department, teachers, and classes, which meant meetings, strategizing, and training along with deacon meetings.

 

I was enjoying training salespeople and helping them develop their territory strategies and reach their quotas. I gained more responsibility as sales and marketing manager, with customer service now reporting to me, along with fifteen sales reps and twelve distributors. My goals were becoming more about helping people succeed in their work and helping those we taught at church grow in their relationship with God and his son, Jesus Christ.

 

We were so happy. Our sons were seven and five. They were playing soccer (I was even coaching) and doing well in school. Our church was growing, Sunday school attendance had doubled, and we had a new pastor with a great vision. Work was going great, and life was good.

 

Then, God started stirring in 1991. I got a call from a company in Baraboo, Wisconsin, about an opening for vice president of sales and marketing. I visited that company, because my dad always taught me, “When God opens a door, go through it and then wait for God to close it or open it wide.” This would be a big move, since we would be leaving all our friends and family in the South and would have to become “Cheeseheads” and “Badgers.” Not only was that scary, but thinking about the cold and snow didn’t make it easy. I had my doubts but kept talking with that company.

 

Long story short, I took the job after lots of prayer. My wife, Kay, made the decision we were going, because I couldn’t make up my mind. Well, God was faithful and blessed our move in March 1991. I was blessed as vice president of sales and marketing with a great team of people and the family who owned the company was very supportive of my family and I. Kay and I started attending church right away at Walnut Hill Bible Church, and I began teaching the high school boys Sunday school class, and Kay taught young children. Then, a few years later, Kay and I started a young married Sunday school class, and we discovered our passion was teaching young married couples about how to deal with the struggles all married couples go through. Kay also became children’s church director, and I served on the deacon board. We also became Sunday school directors. I served as building committee chairman, as our church grew, and we built a new church building. We added on again due to the growth and the many people God was sending to our church. God was truly blessing our family, church, new friendships and work.

 

God was keeping our plate full, but he was faithful to give us the time and energy to keep up with him, our two sons, and my work. Later in 1996, I was promoted to senior vice president at work and in 1998, was promoted to president of the company. We had grown the business to $125 million in annual sales by 2003, with 1100 associates, and ten facilities, including one in Mexico and one in England.

 

As president I enjoyed holding town meetings at all the facilities, creating a communications strategy to give all associates a voice. I developed and introduced training and leadership courses, which I taught before hiring a training director to keep the momentum going. Lesson Learned: Our people have so much to teach us as leaders about what we are doing wrong and how they can help us fix it. I enjoyed the new leaders I had put in place throughout the company. Being able to coach, mentor, and watch leaders grow and people pulling together really got me excited. Between church, work, and God working in my life, servant leadership was starting to make sense. I was finding that my passion and purpose was about impacting people’s lives in a positive way, helping them deal with their struggles and reach their potential. I was really starting to care about people and how I could make a difference in their lives.

 

Life was great, but God starting stirring again, with an opportunity that came out of nowhere. This was hard to imagine, since we loved our church and were so excited that God was allowing us to be involved with so many people and ministries in our church. We kept asking ourselves what God was thinking. What had we done wrong? Why would he move us when we are so happy serving him, and I was happy as president of a company that was growing and doing well, and relationships with the people in the company were going great. Life was great. Lesson Learned: Sometimes, God does the unexpected when things are going great to test your faith in him and take you in a different direction and further on your journey.

 

A large, privately owned company headquartered in Houston had a division headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana, that needed a new president. This division had two plants in Tennessee, one in Alabama, and one in Indiana. They had gone through three presidents in three years, and they were looking for a leader who could help build morale and set a new direction. It was smaller than the company I was currently leading, but the opportunity seemed very appealing, like it was where God wanted our family. We prayed about it a lot, and I met with the leadership team; I liked them very much. I liked the chairman of the company and his vision for the company. Kay and I made the decision to take the job, as it seemed so right for lots of reasons. God was really giving us the yes signal this time, with no doubts. The company was great, and I learned to love the people and their hearts and willingness to change. They had been through a lot in the years before I came, going through three presidents in three years with me being the fourth. There was no doubt God sent me there to impact their lives and for them to impact me and continue me on my path to becoming a servant leader.

 

We started this new adventure in October 2003, and it was a great move. The people were great; we joined another great church, Nappanee Missionary Church in Nappanee, Indiana. Kay and I started a newly married class that started with four couples and has grown to about eighteen couples. I was elected to the church board in 2011, and Kay is helping in children’s church.

 

Then, in late 2008, God showed up again with another test. I was asked by the chairman of the company to take an assignment with another of the companies they owned. I had turned it down twice before, because it just didn’t seem right. But the third time, I agreed. This company had been struggling since it was purchased, and it needed a new direction, as it, too, had been through several leaders during its history. The economy during that time, as we all remember, was struggling badly and hurting this business like many others in our country. But they said I didn’t have to move and could travel to the plants in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Cincinnati, Ohio, during the week and be home on weekends.

 

So, from January 2009 until I left the company in April 2010, I traveled almost every week, leaving on Monday mornings and coming home late on Friday nights. This was a different kind of experience for me. I was humbled by several events during the fifteen months I was there. The markets this company was in (transportation) were impacted greatly by the economy. We had to shut down the Fort Smith plant due to poor performance; we sold off one of the product lines to another company and moved the other two product lines to the plant in Cincinnati. With these changes completed, my job was eliminated, and at age sixty-one, with the economy in terrible shape, my new big question was, “Now what, God?”

 

As I look back on this period, I can definitely say it was one of the most challenging and frustrating times of my life. I won’t go into all the details, but I wondered so often, sitting in lonely hotel rooms traveling to Fort Smith and Cincinnati, what God was trying to teach me. Then, when I lost my job, it was about what punishment God was handing out and what had I done wrong to deserve this. Those fifteen months and the loss of my job gave me plenty of time to think about my life, my relationship with God, and what path God had in store for me. Well, it wasn’t about punishment after all; it was about God building my faith and creating a path for me to do what I had often thought, talked, and prayed about for many years. It was to start my own consulting business. If I had not lost my job, I would have never attempted it. At age sixty-one, I would have felt it was too late to start a business, and having a job with a great paycheck was security.

 

Now, God was giving me the chance to share my thirty-eight years of business and leadership experiences with business leaders, companies, churches, nonprofit organizations, and anywhere else God might send me. So, in April 2010, I set out on a new path to start my own business. It has been an awesome experience, and the success God has blessed us with has been unbelievable. I couldn’t have scripted it any better if I had done it myself. God is good!

 

The other great thing I wanted to share about my journey and God’s awesome blessings in my life are that our whole family is now located in the Elkhart, Indiana, area. My oldest son, Andy, who is now twenty-nine, moved here in 2004, when he graduated from college and took a marketing job with Harman International, who has a division here. He married his high school sweetheart, Jesi, and they now have two sons: Will, four, and Sam, almost two. Then, my youngest son, Patrick, twenty-seven, moved here from Wisconsin in 2010 to help me start my consulting business. So, now a bunch of southerners who started out on a journey together in 1991, when we left North Carolina to move to Wisconsin, have now all ended up in the same area in Indiana. That is a God thing and an awesome blessing (especially having those grandsons nearby). My favorite title now is “Pop Pops.”

 

Lesson Learned: Sometimes, there is pain in the journey, and it’s required to move you to where God wants to take and bless you. As I look back over the past twenty-five years, when my servant leadership really started, I can see that all those moves to other cities and jobs helped us get back into church, develop our talents and skills for serving others, build a strong marriage, learn how to be better parents and brought us closer to God. Our faith grew substantially, and God showed us he could be trusted in all things. All my promotions and moves up the corporate ladder and into new leadership roles helped me learn it was about people—not me—and the more I served, the more joy and happiness I would find. My wants in life became a lot smaller list, and the things that have become more important to me are God, family, and serving others.

 

I had found my purpose and passion. My new consulting firm and writing this book are about helping leaders see that developing a servant leader’s heart is a high calling and can make a major difference in their relationship with God, their own lives, their family, and the people they are called to lead.

 

Lesson Learned: My journey has taught me God is always faithful and can be trusted. Sometimes, you have to go through a storm to find God’s purpose for your life and find the awesome rainbows he has prepared for you. I can truly say that I have found many rainbows during my journey. Does that mean I won’t see more storms? I’m sure I will when God needs to get my attention, build my faith, and keep me moving through this great journey called life. I look forward to the journey.

 

 

2. Cares About People

 

Caring drives the how and why servant leaders lead and motivate the way they do. Someone may be called a leader, but without truly caring about people, they are not a servant leader. Servant leadership is always about people first, not tasks or results. Caring for people is the key, because people accomplish the tasks and actions that produce the results. If you don’t truly care about people and take the time to build relationships that have a positive impact on their lives:

 

  • How can you truly lead your people?
  • Why will they follow you?
  • How can you really expect to discover and help develop people’s potential without having a relationship with them?
  • If you don’t understand your people’s needs, goals, and skills, all you are doing is leading generically.
  • This means you put everyone in a box, and you are not harnessing the collective ability of your team.

This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with everyone who reports to you, or hang out together after work or on weekends. But it does mean if you are going to lead someone and understand how they think, what their needs are, what makes them tick, and how you can impact their life, you better know more than their first name and say hello a couple of times a month. Know their heart!

 

Caring leaders thrive on the diversity of their teams. They know how to take that diversity, mold it, and make it work. If you are going to build a team, you start with each individual. You need to understand them as individuals before you can develop your team. What are their skills, experiences, likes, dislikes, and goals for work and life? This does take time, and you won’t learn this in one big meeting. This kind of relationship is built moment by moment over time, as you build trust in your relationships with each individual. Lesson Learned: Build trust and your people will move mountains for you.

 

Think about the diversity on a football team. Not everyone can be the quarterback or the star. You need people who can bring different skills and abilities. Servant leaders appreciate these differences in people, where others may complain. A servant leader’s ability to see the person and his or her potential helps the servant leader work through the differences in the personalities and the things that might drive other leaders crazy.

 

Because they embrace diversity, servant leaders are great team builders. They understand the power of the team. They know that the better a team can work together, the closer team members will come to fulfilling their own potential and that of the company. Over time, teams led by servant leaders will usually take on the leader’s traits. The team will become more positive, willing to resolve conflict, become better communicators, and set expectations for themselves and the team. They will learn to care and rely on each other as a team. The caring will spread and become infectious. Can you imagine what a company might accomplish if they could truly build a caring group of people with a sense of community?

 

I will admit the recent economic issues in our country are not making it easy for servant leaders to build teams and relationships. With layoffs, terminations, and reductions in pay and benefits, it is creating new challenges for building trust. But being a servant leader requires making the tough decisions that must be made to reduce costs and protect the future of the company. I will talk more about this under stewardship.

 

Servant leaders see the potential in their people. They work to bring out that potential in their people, which, in turn, impacts the company in a positive way. They help people maximize their skills by equipping and empowering them to try new things, think for themselves, and innovate. While some success can happen on its own and by luck, most of the time, it is achieved on purpose with a plan, actions, and time spent by the leader to support his or her team members.

 

If you are not a servant leader or don’t really care about people, never try faking that you care about people. They will spot a fake every time.

 

COUNTERFEIT SERVANT LEADERS

  • They hold meetings with their people, telling them how much they care, but their actions don’t match their words
  • They provide very little feedback to their people
  • They ask for little to no feedback on how they can improve
  • They provide very little training
  • They have few one-on-one meetings with their people
  • Communication with their people is usually done through e-mail or memos
  • In meetings, they do almost all the talking, leaving little time for questions
  • They show little interest in their team members as individuals
  • They focus in on tasks, not people

 

If you give me forty-five minutes to walk with a leader on a tour of a manufacturing plant, I can tell by the reaction of the people what they think of that leader. Some leaders are good at trying to disguise their poor relationships with their people by smiling and saying hello to everyone, but most don’t even try to hide it. They act like they are walking through a forest without seeing the trees. When I was president, I always watched for the people’s reaction when the leaders gave me a walk-through of their facility. I could tell by the reaction of the people to the leader’s smile or “Hello” what they thought of that leader. Or, if I stopped at a work cell to talk to the people, I watched to see if the leader was showing impatience with my questioning of the people and was trying to hurry me along, so I wouldn’t ask too many questions.

 

Then, if I took the time to talk with the people, they were like kids in a candy store. It always felt like they were starved for attention and for someone in leadership to show he or she cared and valued their opinion. We as leaders often forget or don’t realize the positive impact we can have on people by just giving them our time and showing interest.

 

I also watch a leader during group or shift meetings to see if they are willing to bring up and discuss tough issues and problems, or how the leader reacts to tough questions from their people. Too often, leaders like to have nice meetings, where nothing of substance is covered or resolved. Then, we wonder why people think we don’t care or won’t listen to them. Meetings were always a way for me to gauge the atmosphere of the group and the leader’s relationship with them. Let me add, if a leader hasn’t had training on holding effective and open meetings, then it’s the company’s fault. A leader can only be held accountable for the expectations and training he or she has had. If leaders are open and responsive to their people, you are moving toward having not only their minds but also their hearts. But don’t respond or pay attention to their opinions, and you will get blank stares and a team who is just watching the clock.

 

 

3. Stewardship

 

When people hear the word “stewardship,” many think of giving money or their tithe to the church. The online definition from Webster’s states that “stewardship is the conducting, supervising, or managing of something, especially the careful and responsible management of people and things entrusted to one’s care”.

 

For me, I know that everything I have been blessed with—my family, job, talents, skills, abilities, and possessions—are provided to me by God. He has entrusted them to me to be used wisely and to impact the lives of people he puts in my life. So, as a responsible leader, I need to be a good steward and manage them well for the owner: God. Servant leaders realize this same principle. For example, they understand that the people they are responsible for leading are in their care, and they take that responsibility very seriously. They understand that to teach and reach people, to have a true impact on their lives, requires leaders who care. They show they care by devoting time, effort, and interest in their team members’ lives.

 

Servant leaders understand that good stewardship is a win-win for everyone if done correctly. The trouble is that in today’s world, many leaders want others to be the good stewards and to serve them. In reading the headlines of newspapers almost every day, it is sad to see that many leaders have lost their understanding of stewardship. They have gone from a, “How can I serve?” to, “How can I be served?” They act as though there is something special that comes with a leadership title that gives them the right to steal, abuse their power, and be entitled to do anything they want. Then we wonder why people in surveys find it hard to trust leaders anymore.

 

We, as leaders, have a high calling to not only set the bar high for what is right for the organizations we lead but also to live it daily in our own lives. Leaders have a tremendous influence through the rules, policies, expectations, environment, and rhythm we establish and support. Then, the people we lead watch to see if our words match our walk. Do we live out what we claim in our meetings, employee talks, mission statements, and policy books? I have found that in many cases, we leaders have failed. We have allowed crazy compensation and perks to get out of hand for leaders, while laying off and cutting the pay of our workforce. We have allowed behaviors to exist that should be unacceptable and stopped dead in their tracks. But, we get “busy being busy” with managing tasks, and we take our eye off the people, our most important responsibility.

 

No leader is perfect; we all make mistakes. Sometimes it’s an error in judgment or a decision that goes wrong. We can become frustrated with the results of the business or the people with whom we work. We become stressed and lose our temper or patience, all normal occurrences that happen because we are human. But mistakes are different than deliberate actions taken, because we believe we are somehow privileged because of our title or power. The sad part is that leaders do it so often, they start believing it’s not wrong anymore. They have fooled themselves into thinking it is okay. Truth becomes whatever they declare it to be.

 

One last thought. If we can get it right with our people by setting the right examples, treating each other with respect, showing good stewardship in the way we manage the assets of the company, we have a very good chance to succeed as a business. Lesson Learned: People don’t expect perfection, but they do expect caring servant leaders who are real and humble.

 

 

4. Communicator

 

We devote a whole chapter to this subject in chapter seven, because it is that important. While caring is the number-one driver of a servant leader, communication is how they show they care. We not only communicate with our words, deeds, and daily actions but also by not communicating what is right at the right time or in the right way. Servant leaders see communication as the building block for building relationships and developing people. Communication shows people how much we really care or that we don’t. Communication can build or destroy people and relationships. Communication is so powerful that it has caused wars and destroyed marriages and countries. Words are powerful, but sometimes, saying nothing is worse.

 

In most companies, there are leaders with different styles of communication. This means in every company some people are being led by great communicators who get it right, while others are being led by leaders who are not communicating, motivating, or developing people. This can create major problems due to the differences and inconsistency of communication taking place between departments and groups. Then we wonder why visions and strategies never take hold and are confusing to the people.

 

Lesson Learned: Servant leaders give and seek feedback. Their people have a voice and are never afraid to give their opinion or offer suggestions. They have a freedom that others within the company may not have. Servant leaders understand that issues, if allowed to fester and grow, become like weeds that need to be cut off at the root. If not, they will choke off the ability of people to achieve great and rewarding things.

 

Servant leaders understand that one of the biggest causes of problems in businesses today is leaders are not resolving the issues that everyone knows exist, but no one solves. These are issues everyone knows about and are talked about every month in meetings, in the halls, at lunch, and in doorway meetings. People keep asking, “Why don’t they fix that issue?” The problem is really a communication issue, because people won’t sit down and resolve the issues and conflict.

 

The real questions is, “Who is this ‘they’ everyone is talking about?” Has everyone forgotten that the “they” is us?

 

In meetings as president, when people would say, “They aren’t doing such and such,” or, “They are keeping us from hitting our results,” my response would be, “Who is they? Bring them to me. How did they sneak into our company? Who are these strangers?” Then, I would begin my talk on we get what we allow to happen as leaders. If there are problems, it is up to leaders to communicate with each other and solve the issues or problems. If we don’t like what we have, make a recommendation to change it. Servant leaders communicate their expectations and then constantly teach others how to live out those expectations. We will cover a lot more about communication in chapter seven.

 

 

5. Humble

 

When most people describe a leader, the word “humble” isn’t usually mentioned. But for a leader to be effective, he or she needs to be humble. Of course, all of us can act and be humbled, especially when we do something wrong or are caught in a very bad situation. We have recently seen the scene played out over and over again on TV with celebrities, politicians, and business leaders who get caught doing something they shouldn’t. But I’m talking about being truly humble when you have found success, have achieved a lot in your life, and people admire you. That is when it is hard to remain humble and grounded.

 

To achieve that kind of humbleness requires a person who has developed their God-given spirit, talents, and ability to put people first and their own success in perspective. One advantage of caring about others is that it doesn’t give you time to focus on yourself, your achievements, and wants. Lesson Learned: Caring about others’ needs and helping them find their potential becomes a good barrier for keeping selfishness out of your own life and humbleness alive. These barriers help servant leaders:

 

  • Feel successful because they are helping others achieve
  • When success comes, to be thankful for the opportunity
  • Know their weaknesses and what to avoid
  • Attract followers, because they are real
  • Try to grade their own success based on God’s standards, not the world’s
  • Be strong, and stand up for what is right

NO FEAR OF DOING THE RIGHT THING

 

The temptations that can come with successful leadership—such as money, fame, power, and people putting you on a pedestal—will come knocking at your door. Then, we must decide if we open that door or keep it closed. The big problem is many of us open that door just a crack, thinking we are grounded and can manage success well. I have seen many business leaders during my career fight that battle. Some have lost, and most will struggle with it all their lives.

 

But overcoming temptation by ourselves is almost impossible. To fight these temptations, we will need to use prayer, read God’s word, tuck our children in at night, kiss our wives often, and focus on what is important. Keep close to the most important relationship you need in your life: God. He can help you fight the battle. It is not a battle that he meant for any of us to fight by ourselves. The more I have tried to make Jesus Lord of my life, the easier it becomes to fight off the pull of success. No, I’m not perfect and have fallen many times in my leadership journey. But through God’s grace and mercy, my family, and many mentors, I keep moving forward. You must always remember life and servant leadership is a journey, and if you ever think you have arrived, you are in trouble.

 

 

6. Positive Attitude

 

It’s when a person in the midst of a storm doesn’t get scared or troubled, because he or she knows a rainbow is coming even though it can’t yet be seen. I, like many other people, enjoy being around positive people, especially those who have proven over time they can come out of the tough times still smiling and ready to fight the good battle all over again. That attitude is infectious and brings a can do spirit to their teams and followers.

 

Servant leaders see potential and opportunity, while others see problems and challenges. In today’s tough economic times, businesses need leaders with positive attitudes who can help their team focus on the goals and objectives. Most all servant leaders bring positive attitudes to their teams. Servant leaders don’t let problems overshadow the possibilities. They bring a confidence that helps people work through the issues to find solutions. Positive attitudes are not gained by always winning or not having any trouble in your life. Positive attitudes are built on a faith gained by going through the everyday battles and coming out on the other side. They have learned things are never going to be as bad as you or others thought.

 

If you were around in 2000 for Y2K, you know what I’m talking about, when I say things are never as bad as we think they might be. We were all scared to death based on what the news people and so-called experts were telling us. Our world was going to shut down we were told. Electric grids would collapse; water would be in short supply. Machines in factories would shut-down, ATM machines would not give you money; bank accounts would be frozen; on and on, the stories came rapid fire. We all went out and stocked up on food, bottled water sales went through the roof, we got money out of our bank accounts, and businesses spent billions to get ready. We all sat in front of our TV at midnight to watch it all blow up and the world to never be the same. Nothing happened; it was over, and we all went to bed.

 

Having the right attitude is one of the most important strengths any leader or individual can have in life. There is an old saying: “Life is 10 percent of what happens to us and 90 percent of how we respond to it.” Attitude is often more important than skills, education, or resources in determining whether we fail or succeed in life. Can you imagine what our family life, businesses, government, and nation could achieve if we could bring a positive attitude to all the situations we face and the people we meet in our life’s journey? What a great world this could be!

 

 

7. Encourager

Servant leaders love to show people they are an important part of the team and that what they do is important. I can think back during my own career and see the many leaders who encouraged me:

 

  • To try new things
  • To not give up when I was on the verge of quitting
  • By thanking me for doing a good job
  • By teaching me that it is okay to celebrate at work when things go right
  • By showing me that when tough times come, they were right there with us
  • By taking the time to get to know me as a person
  • By taking time to help me learn through teachable moments, instead of criticizing me

 

 

8. Motivator

 

Servant leaders have that special ability to bring out the best in people. They know the exact things to say at the right time to get people pumped. They spend time with their people, finding out how they are doing. Their own work ethic motivates people to give their best. They seem to be able to rise above the tough days and bring a fresh spirit to an organization and its people right when they need it most. They motivate people to work on the right priorities at the right time for the best results. Motivation is the energy that keeps a business and the people moving down the right path. Without motivation, too often people are like boats sitting in dry dock, hanging on but going nowhere. I believe most people who succeed in life had people who motivated them during their life’s journey. Not all motivation comes from within. Motivation is the “wind in our sails” when there is no wind to drive us.

 

 

9. Influencer

 

Servant leaders have a natural ability to influence people, not by doing anything out of the ordinary, but by caring about those they lead. They have a special talent and the ability to influence people to try new things, to get them to move out of their comfort zone, to help their people discover their potential for greatness, and more important, to reach for it with all they have. While many leaders see people as lazy, servant leaders expect the best out of their people. They don’t push; they influence, which produces a big difference in the results over the long term. They lend a helping hand instead of walking away in disgust when things aren’t going right. If a leader has no influence with the people they lead, it is going to end badly for the people and the company. People are looking for and need a leader who can energize them. Many leaders and companies fail to accomplish success, because they have failed to master the art of energizing and inspiring those they lead.

 

 

10. Accountability

 

I laugh when people ask me, “Aren’t servant leaders too easy on their people?” The answer I give is always the same: Lesson Learned: Servant Leaders believe holding people and a team accountable is one of the strongest tools in their “toolbox.” Accountability helps individuals and teams, as well as a business, reach their potential. But what makes servant leaders different is they help their team meet the results. They don’t hold a meeting, pass out the goals, and then go sit in their office, hoping the team makes it happen. The servant leader is constantly coaching, teaching, and checking with the team on where they are in meeting the goals. They use metrics, so the team knows the score and what inning they are in. Servant leaders know that sustainable success is not built on hope but a direction, process, actions, and support by leadership. Caring about people doesn’t make you weak; it’s what drives you to equip and empower the workforce to achieve success.

 

It’s when you don’t care about people that meeting goals becomes harder. Because expectations aren’t set, people run in circles, chasing and doing whatever they think might work, while the leader focuses on other things. Real servant leadership is always about the people, while other types of leaders focus more on tasks. So, the real question is what comes first as a priority for a leader: the people or the task? I know in my own career, when I was busy working on tasks and the other things I needed to get done, the team felt abandoned at times. When I spent my time with them, working on the big picture and their individual parts of the plan, things got better and results improved.

 

It’s why so many companies today have embraced Lean Manufacturing and Six-Sigma. These processes and continuous improvement programs start with people, concentrate on people, and stay focused on people and teams. Leaders in the company get involved in how the operation is running, and their attention brings hope to the people that things might change. Communication improves dramatically. Almost everyone stays focused on how to look for and make improvements in their little piece of the world. What the people do every day gets measured to help them see the score and how they are doing. It gives them new targets to shoot for and then provides the tools to help them meet their goals. It creates and promotes a better environment for teamwork, setting and meeting goals, continuous improvement, and team building. Lean and Six Sigma are great tools for servant leaders to use for building teamwork, success, and results.

 

FOR ACCOUNTABILITY TO BE A POSITIVE TOOL

  • People must know their goals. What are they trying to achieve?
  • The goals must be fair and reachable
  • There is a plan for how they will reach the goals
  • The plan lays out who is doing what and when
  • There is a timetable for when they must reach the goals
  • Metrics are in place to show their results and the improvements they achieve
  • Everyone must know what happens if they achieve their goals and if goals aren’t achieved

 

A servant leader’s DNA doesn’t make them special; it only gives them the skills and abilities needed to impact people’s lives. Like any talent, skill, or ability, it has to be used, developed, and maintained. It has to stay focused on people, and anything that takes their focus off people will hurt the servant leader’s influence and results. Guard your talent well from the pull that success brings, and see it as a great gift from God to be used to impact people’s lives in a caring and positive way, helping them to reach their full potential and find their own purpose and passion in life.