Serve Well Then Lead Well

Happy Diverse Business GroupLast week’s post/cast outlined the foundation of effective service and leadership – living well, being of positive physical well-being.

If I have inspired you to take steps (literally and figuratively) to boost your physical health, let’s look at the second step: serve well.

Serving others is the foundation of citizenship in our families, workplaces, and communities. The call to service is also found in nearly every one of the world’s religions.

I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.

What if you are not a formal leader in your family, workplace, or community today? Please don’t let the terminology “servant leadership” dissuade you from embracing the philosophy and practices of servant leadership.

Anyone can serve – and lead – from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community.

What is the philosophy of servant leadership? One must understand and embrace the philosophy before their daily plans, decisions, and actions can be consistently aligned to that philosophy.

Servant leaders believe:

  • Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect.
  • People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.
  • It is their role and responsibility is to enable others to bring their best to every moment and every interaction.

What are the practices of servant leaders? Servant leaders typically:

  • Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others. They educate others by their words and actions. They help create a clearer understanding of the greater purpose of serving others. They pose questions to help those around them consider how to set aside self-serving behaviors and embrace servant leadership behaviors.
  • Listen intently and observe closely. They understand that, in order to inspire the best in others, they must understand the world others live in. They do not assume things about others, nor do they judge others. Over time they learn about their players’ unique worldview and opportunities to serve by listening more than talking, observing more than preaching.
  • Act as selfless mentors. They are not looking for credit! They are looking to boost traction in others’ efforts to better serve. Their interactions and communications are designed to boost others’ servant philosophy and others’ servant skills.
  • Demonstrate persistence. They understand that a conversation or two may not change a player’s mindset or assumptions. They are lovingly tenacious; they invest hours in conversations over months to help educate and, hopefully, inspire servant leadership practices in others.
  • Lovingly hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments. Servant leaders are human; they’ll make mistakes. They know the players they are working with will make mistakes. And, they push for high standards of performance and service quality by everyone. They praise aligned behaviors and redirect mis-aligned ones to create consistent service to others.

How do you know if you are a servant leader? You don’t have a vote! The only folks who do have a vote are those that interact with you daily: family members, friends, colleagues, customers, and strangers. You must ask regularly, “How can I be of greater service to you?” then refine your behaviors to serve more effectively.

What do you think? What are your best servant leader practices, ones you use frequently to serve others? What did your great bosses do to serve you effectively? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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  • Based on personal experience, I have learned that many people truly overlook the networking benefit of becoming a source of empowerment in someone else’s life.

  • Mark Deterding

    Chris, great post on servant leadership and the practices of servant leaders. I especially like your point on persistence. Commitment is such a key attribute of servant leaders, and it must be understood that developing servant leaders truly does take significant time, effort, and energy. But as people shift their paradigm to an attitude of serving others, you quickly realize it is the most rewarding work a person could do as a leader. Thanks for you insights on this very important leadership topic!

    • Thanks so much, Mark. I confess – I have two folks in mind when I’m pondering posts on servant leadership: Jerry Nutter, and you.

      Thanks for the inspiration –



  • James Strock

    Terrific post! One could well argue that in today’s world, more than ever, all effective, sustainable leadership is servant leadership. Thanks for sharing your good thoughts on this important topic.

    • I’m right with you, James – the world is in desperate need of inspiring servant leadership. Thanks for your comment, sir!



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