James Strock writes that effective leadership is about serving others. In fact, “the only effective leadership,” he says, “is focused resolutely on serving others. It is no longer an option or a modifier; it’s the very definition of leadership.”
But service to others doesn’t come easily. It’s not our default approach. Day-to-day pressures can easily derail our best intentions.
Authentic Service is Built on Humility
Maintaining an attitude of service requires a foundation that comes from within. Sustainable service—service as a way of life—can’t be motivated by external forces. It can’t be built on moods or emotions or the merits of other people. Service isn’t something we can put on—for long. It must come from within. It must be grounded in a deeply ingrained core value: humility.
Service is built on humility. Not a self-effacing false humility but an action-oriented humility that seeks to funnel our resources, talents, abilities and our position, to build others up before ourselves—using our strengths to serve others.
By linking humility to service, we can see more clearly the motivation that drives the behaviors that exemplify the best leaders.
Without that foundation no leader can really lead effectively for the long-term. Good leaders operate on the assumption that if I serve, the results will follow. They do it because that’s who they are; it’s how they see themselves in relation to the world around them.
Humility also makes for better service. Humility motivates you to listen more; to understand more deeply. We more readily seek out what people need more than what we think we should give them.
Service develops the kind of influence that is more powerful than our authority. It also makes our job easier. Willing people often achieve beyond our expectations creating tremendous value for the organization or community. But for leaders, building others must become an end in itself. We do it because that’s how we think. It’s how we see ourselves in relation to others.
Make the Decision to Serve–Every Day
Without humility, service becomes a gimmick that other quickly see through. Without humility, your leadership will attract cynics. It is a daily choice. It’s a frame of mind that has to be renewed daily by reflection that leads to action.
Your authentic service can be cultivated by daily reflection on such questions as:
What am I here for?
How are other people experiencing my leadership?
How can I best serve today?
Michael McKinney founded LeadershipNow in 1996 to help leaders and organizations develop sustainable leadership habits. Michael is the author of the internationally popular Leading Blog and is a speaker, consultant and writer on leadership and personal development. Michael is also the president of M2 Communications, the publisher of Foundations Magazine—a personal development e-zine—and is the president of the CenturyOne Foundation.
Michael McKinney | Authentic Service