I recently read an article that was criticizing the idea of servant leadership. In the article, it mentioned the thought that employees were only, in the final analysis, a means to an end and that leaders were really not there to serve. Let’s look at those two thoughts individually.
Means to an end. When I saw those words, I had to reread them to make sure I had actually read them correctly. I got a little angry at the thought actually. “Means to an end” as if these people who labor with their hearts and minds are just replaceable cogs in a machine, really?!? Not in a world I want to live in.
In my thinking, employees are partners. They are supporters of the mission. They are the ones who advance the cause. They are the ones who help the business keep doing what it does.
To put employees in the category of an interchangeable part is to devalue their contribution. Unlike a machine, employees can develop new ideas. They can spot problems before they happen. They can woo new customers and sooth the unhappy. What machine does that? Yet, they are just means to an end? No!
Given that, how about serving as a leader? If employees are partners, leaders need to be their help in accomplishing the mission. They need to help them with tools, training, encouragement, and some good old tough love when it’s necessary. That’s what servant leadership is all about, being a support, not some sort of weak subordinate.
Ultimately, leadership is not about power, it’s about stewardship and influence. Leaders are there to provide perspective, experience, support, guidance, and solutions. All of those things are helpful, another word for service – thus, servant leadership.
So, let’s get clear. Employees are not replaceable parts, they’re critical partners, and leaders are not all-knowing heroes, they’re fallible influencers who nurture and support those moving the mission. Both roles are necessary and both need to help each other. If each helps the other with a focus on a common purpose, success cannot be far off.
How do you think of employees? How do you think of leadership? Both are necessary, both important, neither replaceable.
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