Should You Be More than a Servant Leader?

Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a…

Tom-portrait-150x150Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the mega-blog He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

Leaders often struggle with how they can be most effective in their position of authority. I know I do.

But I’ve learned that leadership is least about being the one in authority. It is a lot about fulfilling the needs and demands of the organization.

Sometimes the demands are obvious:

  • Refresh the vision
  • Enrich the culture
  • Add new staff
  • Improve key metrics (like sales)
  • Solve a crisis

Other times the demands are more subtle, sort of like swelling waves that everyone senses, but no one worries about.

As a leader, you are the one everyone trusts to recognize whether such waves will eventually gather enough energy to topple the ship. Often these rising swells present symptoms like conflict, turnover, cynicism, or stymied growth.

Behind the symptoms, of course, can be real needs the company is trying to communicate:

  • Additional training
  • A new strategy
  • New organizational structure
  • New products
  • Fewer meetings
  • Personnel shifts
  • Revised processes

For example, if we have too many meetings, people may be struggling to get their work done. Rather than figure out ways to be more efficient, you could solve the problem by reducing the frequency and/or length of meetings.

Suddenly people will start getting more work done, which would reduce their stress, and result in more creativity, leading to revenue growth.

And the culture could suddenly turn positive, too. All because you changed up the meetings.

Let me slightly refine the definition of servant leadership:

Servant leaders ultimately serve the needs of the organization.

I say ultimately because they don’t ignore the needs of individuals. Instead, these leaders expand their scope to the greater needs in the organization.

What organizational waves are you sensing right now? Do you see people’s feet shifting to maintain their balance?

Whether it’s a storm surge or the perfect surfing wave gathering steam for a new opportunity, it’s up to the leader to discern and react accordingly.

When you serve the organization, you’re ultimately serving its people.

What are the most pressing needs in your organization right now?