“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Ten years ago, when I committed to furthering my education and career in nonprofit, I also committed to a life of serving others first. I went into this arena confident that everything, tools and resources, would follow by taking this leap of faith … and yes! It did.
One of the largest teams I led was composed of 25 direct reports and over 250 indirect reports. Our award-winning team continued to implement best practices and innovative measures to increase our impact on the youth we served. My role in all of this was to serve. Many of my colleagues disagreed with my leadership style but couldn’t show me any alternative that had a similar or better impact. I stayed true to who I am by nature, and everything else followed.
According to Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”
This is the same leadership style I have used in my nonprofit organization and any other venture that I may take and have found great success. As a servant leader I …
- Commit to the growth of others – One of the questions I ask potential team members is, what are your goals? I ask this question because I want to know that the individual coming in has goals beyond our organization, goals align with what we are seeking, and that we can provide opportunities to help them meet their goals.
- Continuously assess myself – Consistently assessing myself and how my decisions will impact others.
- Listen – Actively listening to others and providing feedback.
- Build Community aka Family – Providing opportunities to get work done while getting to know one another.
Like any leadership style, being a servant leader has its cons as well. But I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Am I saying servant leadership is the best leadership style? Yes and no. It is the style that best fits me naturally but may not be the best style for you. It’s important to know your own leadership style and what works best for you and those you lead.
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