Service-based Leadership

You can start right where you stand and apply the habit of going the extra mile by rendering more service and better service that you are now being paid for. – Napoleon Hill

In his book, Waking the American Dream, Don McCullough relates a story about Winston Churchill during World War II. England decided to increase its production of coal. Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Piccadilly Circus after the war.

First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven Luftwaffe from the sky.

Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, ‘And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?’ And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, ‘We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.’”

Needed within the ranks of your organization are team members playing to their strengths to make your business thrive. These positions cover the spectrum from high visibility to those with their “faces to the coal”, but nonetheless extremely valuable in their service and responsibilities.

Service-based leadership is the life-blood of your organization. In his best-selling book, The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn writes, “The best Freds are true artists at taking ordinary products or job responsibilities and services and making them extraordinary. They are real-world alchemists who practice the art and science of ‘value creation.’” He is right. Do you have a culture of service within your organization?  Here are three tips to help you turn that picture of service-based leadership into a practice.

Re-create your culture. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, consumers revealed their most irritating customer service gripes. Topping the list? Not being able to get a human on the phone, rude salespeople, many phone steps needed, long waits on hold, unhelpful solutions, and no apology for unsolved problems, just to name a few.

If you are going to re-create your current culture and transform it into a service-based leadership culture, you must change your point of view. This is done when you quit your navel-gazing ways and look at your operation through the eyes of your customers. Solicit their feedback and audit their responses and see how you measure up. Re-creating the culture within your organization begins when you shift the focus off yourself and onto those you serve.

Re-focus your priorities. Service-driven leadership begins with fundamental shifts in attitudes and actions. This is characterized by making sure that your core values are clear to everyone within your organization and practiced with everyone outside of it. If your values are not clear internally do not expect any help from those you serve because they will not know either.

The responsibility for service-based leadership rests with the leader at the top of the organization. Ken Blanchard said, “True success in servant leadership depends on how clearly the values are defined, ordered, and lived by the leader.” How clear are your organizational values?

Re-claim your purpose. What is the true meaning or purpose behind what you do? Billy Sunday said, “More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.” He’s right. The secret of service-driven leadership is found in your purpose. When your purpose and passions are clear so is your mission.

Without purpose you may find yourself like Alice in the fairy tale Alice in Wonderland. In a conversation between her and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asked, “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,”
said the cat.

Which way you go matters.  Service-based leadership is deliberate, focused, and is crucial to your success. Service-based leadership is simply servant leadership principles lived out in the marketplace. In order for it to work, you must, like Churchill, paint the picture for others to see and put a plan into action. In order to get ahead you must be willing to serve.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

Doug’s new book, Great Leaders Wanted! is now available. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to order your copy today!

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About dougdickerson

I am an internationally recognized leadership speaker, columnist, and author. My books include: "Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders", "Great Leaders Wanted", "Leadership by the Numbers", and "It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move". I live outside beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.
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2 Responses to Service-based Leadership

  1. Exceptionally stated and presented! I particularly enjoyed the “When your purpose and passions are clear so is your mission” sentence! I think it is important from time to time to not only be reminded of that, but also to find ways to help others discover it within in themselves! From an organizational standpoint, it takes an effective servant-leader to draw out those qualities in properly-positioned employees. Thanks for sharing!
    -Mike

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