In this new year, I’ve made a promise to my team to shorten my blog posts, starting with this one. So today, I have a short, and hopefully relevant and beneficial, message. My inspiration for this post comes from Jeff Foxworthy. For those who may not be familiar with Jeff, he is a phenomenally successful comedian, and although he has an impressive set of books and albums that have done quite well, he is most famous for his “You Might be a Redneck” one liners and the franchise he has built by the same title. Jeff lives in Atlanta and attended my alma mater, Georgia Tech, before getting into comedy, which led to him selling over three million copies of his comedy albums. What I found out about Jeff recently was that he has done equally well as a humanitarian, specifically working with homeless shelters and other charities. It is inspiring to see someone as successful as Jeff remain humble and serve his fellow human beings along the way.
Inspired by his now famous "You might be ..." franchise, I decided to come up with a list of things that I want you to check out to see how you are doing as a leader. Here it goes.
You might be a Servant Leader if …
You don’t feel compelled to brag about how great you are, you don’t take feedback or criticism personally, and you don’t attack the messenger.
People are not shocked when you admit that you’ve made a mistake, and they are used to you admitting that you don’t know something and asking for their support and ideas.
People regularly come to you with their problems and their ideas.
You role model behaviors that are consistent with the values and principles that the organization stands for. You make sure those who deviate from them understand that their behavior will not be tolerated and you deliver that tough message in a compassionate and respectful manner.
You routinely spend your discretionary time interacting with people in the organization beyond your immediate circle of direct reports, so you can understand the reality of what goes on on the front lines.
You consider the people on your team to be your most important customers and you seek and value their opinion about your performance just as much or more than you do your boss’s opinion.
You care more about the people on your team coming together as a community and collaborating with each other across organizational boundaries than you do about their personal allegiance to you and your stance on issues.
You have clear objectives on ways in which you are going to create more favorable conditions for everyone who counts on you for leadership.
You are not any more popular with any one group of people on your team than you are with others. Everyone views you as fair and unbiased and they have accepted that this means that from time to time your principle-based decisions may not line up with the outcome they wanted.
You are not interested in attracting a bunch of followers. Instead, you are always looking for ways to help people develop and grow into the effective leaders that they can be. and finally …
Your favorite TV show is Undercover Boss and you get teary-eyed every time you watch an episode, especially at the end of the show when the boss admits that he/she has learned so much about what they could do better to serve their people and generously shares funds and opportunities with the people they worked with in the field.
Do you see some of these traits in yourself and others you work with? More importantly, do others see these traits in you? If so, you might just be a Servant Leader. If not, it is never too late to start working on a few of these, get a few victories under your belt, and then go on to take on additional characteristics of Servant Leaders such as listening, practicing empathy, humility, and competence.
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