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Service or Servant?

Service or Servant blog post

Over the years there have been multiple takes on leadership ‘types’ by scholars, including Democratic, Autocratic, Laissez-Faire, Strategic and Transformational Leadership to name a few.

There is another type of leadership that I wish to place a spotlight on; “Service leadership”.

For many, our job is our calling. Being of service is often underpinned by a deep desire to make a positive contribution to others and our world. It is not entirely self-less, as we also get a kick-back from knowing we have made a difference.

Issues can however arise when “Service” leadership becomes “Servant” leadership. That is, we are ‘there’ for others at the expense of our own needs, work and wellbeing.

Indicators of becoming a “Servant” leader may include

  • Saying “yes” too much.
  • Rescuing others from their own learning journey.
  • Flimsy boundaries.
  • Taking-on work that is not yours to manage.
  • When it is underpinned by a disease to please (sometimes driven by a fear of being excluded, rejected or becoming irrelevant).
  • Making excuses for others not carrying the load, and instead you work harder to lift it.

The journey towards self-discovery, and making a shift from a servant leader to a service leader, starts with turning the mirror inward.

“The primary instrument for leaders is the self.
That’s all leaders have to work with.
It’s not going to be code written by some brilliant programmer, apps on a smartphone, or clever phrases of a speechwriter that are going to make people better leaders.
What leaders do with themselves makes the most difference. Mastery of the art of leadership comes from the mastery of the self.
Ultimately, you will see, leadership development is self-development”.

(Kouzes & Posner, 2016, p. 59)

Unbundling your motivators to make this shift is a start. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I gaining from a servant approach to leading?
  • What am I losing through a servant approach to leading?
  • What would being of service (or another way of leading) give you that you do not now have?
  • What would being of service (or another way of leading) cause you to lose?

Happy reflecting! Feel free to drop me a line to share how it sits with you 🙂

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