It seems clear that the common good isn’t always the same as our personal preference. Sometimes leading for the common good means putting others’ interests ahead of our own.
Robert Greenleaf called this behavior servant leadership. It starts with taking care to make sure other people’s high priority needs are being met. Beyond that, Greenleaf said we should ask “Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”According to the Greenleaf Center, this doesn’t only apply to individuals – organizations can also demonstrate servant leadership.
So does that mean that I should greet my employees with coffee every morning and be ready to set aside my own tasks to help out when things get busy? According to consultant Skip Pritchard, that’s not servant leadership. He proposed nine qualities that define a servant leader:
- Valuing diverse opinions
- Promoting a culture of trust
- Developing leadership in others
- Helping people with life issues, not just work issues
- Encouraging others
- Using persuasion more than command
- Thinking about “you,” not “me”
- Thinking long term
- Showing humility
Have you had the chance to work for an individual or organization that demonstrated these traits? How did it feel? For me, those have been the times when I was able to bring my best to the workplace. How can we all work together to make Minnesota State a place where servant leadership is the norm?
Dee Anne Bonebright