Do You Have What It Takes to Lead — and Serve?

“Leadership” is a loaded word.

Our minds quickly jump to elected officials or religious icons, but leaders are all around us. Many of the finest leaders are calm, quiet, and introverted. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great (and more recently How the Mighty Fall) calls the finest leaders “Level Five Leaders.” He describes them in the following manner:

The central dimension for Level 5 is a leader who is ambitious first and foremost for the cause, for the company, for the work, not for himself or herself; and has an absolutely terrifying iron will to make good on that ambition.

This unique combination of fierce determination and humility is what also marks what we may call “servant leaders.” Robert K. Greenleaf originally coined this phrase in an essay he wrote in 1970 called The Servant Leader. He describes this kind of leader as one who thinks differently from so many who simply call themselves leaders.

The servant leader thinks…

  • Of others before self
  • Of serving before leading
  • Of the organization’s needs
  • Of making a difference above accumulating material possessions
  • Of using God’s gifts rather than wasting personal talent

When I interview prospective employees, I often reference servant leadership. I explain that we need people who can buy into our organizational culture and mission. We call it thetrash test of leadership”: when someone is humble enough to take out the trash, that person thinks like a servant leader.

How can you be more of a servant leader today?

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