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Servant Leadership, Look for the Followers

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What is the difference between a growing, thriving company and one that is stagnant or dying?

Great leadership!

There is simply no substitute for great leadership. It is everything.

What About “Great” Management?

Managers can generally motivate people for a period of time, but that influence is not one that lasts. They motivate people by means of one or more of the following…

  • Money
  • Promises of Advancement – “You can be like me.” oh, goodie! Not!
  • Fear – “You’ll do this because it is your job. If you don’t do your job, I’ll fire you.” Oh, so motivating.
  • Other gimmicks

Money is a poor motivator because once the employee obtains the increased wage, they want more. More is seldom quickly obtainable, and so the employee loses interest, and is no longer motivated.

Promises of advancement may be empty promises, and even if advancement actually happens the increased expectations are seldom in direct proportion to the increase in renumeration.

Fear is possibly the most common motivator used by managers. At least with money and promises of advancement there is at least the hope that the employee’s life will change for the better if they do what is asked of them.

With fear, they are only trying to keep the status quo. If they don’t perform to the manager’s expectations, they could suffer demotion, disciplinary action, or even be fired.

Firing someone is actually the last thing a manager wants to do. They only use fear of firing to motivate people to do what they want them to do.

All the while, the manager is being motivated by basically one thing. If you get nothing else out of this, please, PLEASE understand.

The number one motivation of a manager is getting people to do their (the manager’s) job so they will not have to do it themselves.

Now, lets look at a different perspective…

Leadership is the antithesis of management, or better said, A Leader is the antithesis of a Manager.

A Leader is someone who has followers. Managers have minions, and leaders have followers. Leaders have a goal, but it is much different than the goal of a manager. A Leader’s goal is to make their organization better by working together with those they lead.

Real Life

Eddie, a manager at a local fast food restaurant stands, waiting for food to fulfill an order from his grill staff. He has a less than engaged order taker at his front counter who’s main motivation is the fact that he gets to leave in half an hour. He has another order taker in drive through who thinks she is his understudy, hoping to take his job someday, because that’s what he has promised her.

Eddie’s kitchen staff is under his constant scrutiny. They never hear praise, only how they need to go faster, to work harder to achieve the order delivery times which have been placed on him by his district manager, a position he hopes to obtain for himself. They are motivated by fear of losing their job.

On The Other Hand

Aimee, a leader at a different local fast food restaurant, noticing the kitchen staff is struggling to keep up due to an equipment issue, heads to the kitchen and jumps in alongside her kitchen lead. Aimee works alongside her staff in the kitchen until they have caught up and high-fives them on her way back to the front of the house.

Upon arriving back up front, Aimee checks in with her leader-in-training, whom she gave the opportunity to take over her role up front a few moments ago when she went to help in the kitchen.

You see, Aimee is leading through serving. This is the complete opposite of our manager, Eddie, from the other restaurant. Aimee has engaged followers, Eddie has minions – people who are scared of him, or who just don’t care in the first place.

Why Should the Company Care?

Let’s suppose that you are a customer at the restaurant Eddie is running. Your only interaction is with either the Drive-Thru or Front Counter employee, and as we discovered before, they are not engaged in their job. They are focused on leaving for the day, or at best, pleasing their boss, Eddie. Either way, you get an unengaged experience, which generally leads to an incomplete or inaccurate order.

If you are lucky, the kitchen staff is motivated enough by their fear of losing their job that your food is hot, fresh, and quickly produced. Most of the time at Eddie’s restaurant you won’t be so lucky, so you leave upset and vow to email the company about your experience. This will likely result in, at best, a lackluster apology and a counter-vow to do better next time.

Meanwhile, at Aimee’s Restaurant

You are met at the door by the dining room Attendant, who welcomes you to the restaurant with a cheerful and sincere greeting. You notice the line at the counter, but you also notice that the staff are engaged with the customers while taking their order, and each experience looks like a conversation instead of a transaction.

The line, which first caught your eye, moves insanely quickly and before you know it, it’s your turn. You feel actually excited to be there, because you are about to experience the same great interaction you have witnessed others being blessed by while you were waiting and deciding what you would order.

You place your order with a highly engaged team member, and you get the same treatment as those who were your precursors in line. The team member asks about your day, complements your young daughter on her earrings, and what felt like making a new friend has resulted in an accurate record of what you want from the menu.

Aimee is headed to meet you before you ever leave the counter with, you guessed it, your food. She delivers everything you ordered with a smile and politely asks if there is anything else you might need to enjoy your meal. Aimee is engaged, so her staff is engaged. Engaged in what? Your experience! 

Aimee’s company understands that you are the reason they are in business, and they act accordingly. The company has placed leaders in Aimee’s life at work, and Aimee is following their leadership. Aimee’s staff is following her leadership and on down the line it goes.

Leadership is generational, management is hierarchical.

If you want to be a leader, you must have followers. You gain followers by serving, by being there when they need you, by doing, not telling. If you want to be a leader, follow leaders. How do you find a leader?

Look for the followers!

There is much more to say on the subject of leadership, and we will continue to explore this topic in future posts, so make sure you subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss anything!

A few great, short reads on the subject…

The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success

The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do

The New One Minute Manager

Do you have a great leadership story? Comment below and tell your story!

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