I am here to help. I like being helpful. It makes me feel useful. I like doing for others what they cannot do for themselves.
This may not seem like much of a leadership attribute, at least not in the traditional sense. You may think that leaders don’t give help, they get help. In many ways, that’s true. They hire people who help them achieve their desired tasks. However, when adhering to the principles of Servant Leadership, leaders take the posture of a servant. In all they do, they look for the opportunity to help others. They help their customers. They help their employees succeed. They help their peers achieve their goals. It’s all about helping and serving others, especially from a position of authority.
I’ll describe two cultures. Think about which one you prefer.
Culture A: We drive hard and get things done. We prioritize, focus, and execute. Everyone is accountable to meet their objectives. Please don’t interrupt me when I’m “in the zone.” Also, I don’t put up with distractions. I’ve got marching orders from on high, and that’s what I’m going to work on. If you’ve got an issue with that, talk to my manager.
Culture B: We don’t say, “That’s not my job.” We’re all part of the same team. If someone comes to me, I’m going to help them out, or at least point them in the right direction. Tasks are important, but people are more important. We all rely on each other, so if someone needs help, we are always responsive. Please let me know what I can do to help you out. Don’t be afraid to ask. We’re here for each other.
So, what do you think, Culture A or Culture B? Is one right and one wrong?
To be honest, while writing this, I am a bit conflicted myself. I’m a hard driver with strong accountability, but I also work hard to be highly relational and helpful. Culture A sounds like it really knows how to get things done. Culture B sounds more pleasant, but does it actually achieve anything?
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
I think Culture A can function just fine with well-defined work, but honestly how much of that do we have nowadays? Our organizations are increasingly complex. The world is chaotic, ever-changing, and dynamic. Eisenhower thought so in the 1950s and that’s only gotten worse.
Paying it forward
As a leader, I know that I am only as good as the people around me. That’s true for the people on my team, and my peers in other departments. I can only harness that power effectively through strong relational skills.
So, I go out of my way to help people. Not just because I hope they return the favor, but because others have already helped me out so much in my career, I’m just not going to let the chain end with me.
At the end of the fiscal year, all managers and employees have discussions about how far they came in achieving their goals. Most goals are individual. Some are shared across a team. I’ve never seen a goal on a performance review form that says, “help others achieve their goals,” but I’m starting to wonder if we should. I wonder what kind of culture we’d create if we did.
What do you think? Am I on to something or am I crazy? Let me know in the comments section below.