Last night I was in Vancouver, British Columbia to deliver a keynote to the Canadian West Coast Chapter of Project Manaagement Institute. It was their first dinner meeting of the year, and they wanted something to create excitement and raise expectations relative to the topic of Servant Leadership.
As I pondered what to present, I had an idea — relative to the content of the session and a title that was hopefully both inspiring and intriguing. My chosen topic was Transforming Your Life, Work, and Service through Servant Leadership.
I intended to stimulate interest, arouse curiosity, and perhaps even be a bit provocative.
As people started trickling in, I was doing what I usually do — meeting as many people as possible.
At one of the last tables I visited, a lady said, “I have a question. I was going to save it and ask during the program, but since you are here, I’ll ask it now.”
“I almost didn’t come tonight because of your topic. It just seems so…” She was struggling with the right word, or maybe she was looking for a kind and courteous way to ask what was really on her mind.
“Audacious?” I asked.
I could tell I had caught her a bit off-guard. “Yes, that’s a good word. Bold, unrealistic, or perhaps even outlandish.”
A grin filled my face. BINGO! Mission accomplished.
“I am so glad you think so and thanks for being bold enough to ask. I was hoping someone would think my claim was audacious. You’ll hear me say that in my opening remarks and I hope that by the end of the evening you will be persuaded that my claim about Servant Leadership is realistic.”
“Will you check in with me at the end and let me know if you think I am off-base or not?”
She remained a bit perplexed yet comforted to know that I was okay with her being uncomfortable and skeptical of my claim about Servant Leadership.
I do believe Servant Leadership has the power to transform because it is holistic and impacts all areas of life and leadership. I used a quotation from my friend, Ari Weinzweig that I’ve used for years now.
If you really live it, Servant Leadership changes everything.
Are you sure? Isn’t that hyperbole? Aren’t you exaggerating? Or as I was told in Norway a couple of years ago, “That’s just like you Americans you exaggerate everything and always make such audacious claims.”
To which I wanted to reply, “Always?”
No. Like Ari, I believe that if you truly embrace Servant Leadership, it changes the way you see the world and your relationship to it.
Over the next two hours, I shared WHY I believe Servant Leadership is transformative. I explained WHAT Servant Leadership is as well as HOW it manifests in action — in both large and small ways.
I also defined what I meant by transformation — to make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of. The Cambridge Dictionary adds, “especially so that that thing or person is improved.”
I invited the audience to identify one area in their life, work, or service where they wanted to experience a thorough or dramatic change this year that resulted in improvement.
The audience could not have been more engaged. Some people were sitting on the edge of their seats and leaning in the whole two hours.
Then, came the moment of truth. The meeting was over. I was engaging in lively discussions with several of the participants. And then I saw Chetna waiting for her turn to talk.
It was now time for her to render her verdict. Had I succeeded in persuading her of the transformative power of Servant Leadership? Or had she written me off as a charlatan and zealot?
“I am so glad I came tonight. I almost did not come because your claim seemed outlandish. Like you, I now see the power of Servant Leadership, and you helped me make “a transition from implementing some of the principles subconsciously, to attempting to implement all of them consciously.”
WOW! Not only did I succeed in arousing curiosity and provoking thought, but I was also privileged to introduce people to Servant Leadership and help them grasp its power to transform.
What do you think about the claim of the transformative power of Servant Leadership? Do you think it audacious, outlandish, or on-point? Let me know in the comments below.