Dave Says: Leadership is Servanthood

Planning & Saving
on November 1, 2012

Dear Dave,
I’m a supervisor at a distribution center. The other supervisors and I are meeting soon to try and change the culture of our place. It’s not a terrible situation, but some concerns about communication, development and confidence in the company have come up. How would you start the process?

Dear James,
Trust begins to break down when your team members think you don’t care about them. But when someone trusts you and knows that you value them, they’ll fight for you and with you. The only way to make your team feel this way is by thinking of leadership as servanthood.

Now, serving someone doesn’t mean you bring them coffee, and it sure doesn’t mean you take a bunch of crap from them. When I talk about serving, I mean looking at your team as real people. As a supervisor, what are you going to do if a guy’s wife is in the hospital after miscarriage? How are you going to handle that? You’ve got to care about your people as people, not units of production. If leadership will start doing this, and start firing people if they’re screw-ups and stop taking a bunch of garbage off the malcontents, then the good people will be glad they’re there. They’ll see that you care about them and demand excellence.

In other words, quit being bosses and start being leaders. That entails servanthood, and that also means using the Golden Rule. Before you do something with your team, take a minute and think how you’d feel if you were in their shoes. Put every decision through the Golden Rule paradigm. That in itself will cause you to serve.

All I’m talking about is loving on your people well. You can change your entire workplace culture just by doing that one thing. Too often Corporate America has forgotten that, but those of us who run successful small businesses know how it’s done. And we make sure it happens every day!

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