“Servant leadership is very strong stuff. If you really live it, servant leadership changes everything.” That’s what Ari Weinzweig, CEO and Co-founder of Zingerman’s Deli, told me in one of our Servant Leadership Sessions podcasts.
In our latest Servant Leadership Session, Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper voiced a similar view: “Servant leadership is something that, if you dare to bring it into your life, transforms everything about who you are and your values, how you think, your priorities, how you live your life.”
The transforming power of servant leadership: Why does that theme appear so regularly?
Here are six reasons I have identified.
- Servant leadership is holistic. It’s a philosophy of leadership and life. If you’re serious about it, servant leadership is 24/7. Servant leadership impacts every area of your life — what you do as a parent, partner, parishioner, or PTA member. It harmonizes all areas of your life into a beautiful symphony of service.
- Servant leadership taps into the transcendent. Something larger than self-interest calls a servant-leader to serve. For many, the source of transcendence is their religious faith. For others, it’s a noble cause or mission. In either case, people find servant leadership provides immense power from outside them.
- Servant leadership bonds leaders and followers. I’m amazed how servant leadership unites leaders and followers into a collective we. Servant leadership dissolves individualism and replaces it with trust, camaraderie, and shared purpose. Nothing is more effective for team building.
- Servant leadership makes followers into leaders. Self-interested leaders seek to transform people into their followers. Servant-leaders seek to transform people into leaders. A servant-leader seeks relentlessly to pass on and develop the servant leadership spirit in her or his followers.
- Servant leadership makes meaning of the mundane. Life contains far more moments of tedium than opportunities for grand adventure. Servant-leaders are everyday heroes. Their transformative power comes from the ability to bring meaning to the small things – listening attentively, shaking hands, asking “how are you doing?” and meaning it.
- Servant leadership is egalitarian. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “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 verb agree to serve…. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
For me, the transforming power of servant leadership comes from all these six of reasons, working together. The diversification of this “portfolio” is the source of its effectiveness. Servant leadership adapts to each new day, each new context, and each new human interaction.
Have you been touched by the transformational power of servant leadership? Has a servant-leader in your life helped you change from follower to leader? What would you add to this list of 6 reasons, and why?