Becoming a leader first means taking on the responsibility of servanthood and serving those you wish to lead.
Conversations can be such a great breeding ground for life lessons. Those life lessons also can be used in our business, since our business should be an extension of ourselves. One of the best lessons I have ever learned came through a conversation I had with Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee. He taught me about servant leadership.
It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Servant leadership. Can one truly be a servant to their employees, clothing themselves in humility, and still be a leader? In fact, it is the only true way for us to lead our business, especially if we are focused on growing that business with a soulfulness that makes it an extension of who we are, where our passions are aligned, and with whom we build our relationships.
What is a servant leader? First, let’s look at what it is not. Everyone has seen the old example of a leader versus a boss. On one side of the picture at the top it says, “Boss,” on the opposite side it says, “Leader.” Now, both pictures looks similar: a set of three employees are trying to move a desk. On the “Boss” side, the person in charge is sitting on the desk, watching his people do their work. On the leadership side, the leader is out in front of his employees helping them accomplish their goal. In order to be a servant-leader, you must be the leader instead of the boss.
That is servant leadership. Howard Behar, says it like this, “…leaders are not here to be served, but leaders, rather, are to serve. We serve our people, our organizations in a way that helps our people accomplish the goals that they have for their lives in the journey of accomplishing the goals for the organization.” He takes this concept even further by stating, “It’s not soft and gentle. It has high expectations and performance matters, but what matters most is what we do for our people first in the context of us serving the organization. It makes such a difference in life because it basically says to our people that they matter, that they come first in our organizations.”
Behar likes to use a simple equation to prove his philosophy. This equation helps grow his people, which in turn grows the organization, then ultimately grows the business. But the focus, at the beginning — and continuing throughout — should always be your people. Behar says, “…there is only one role that any of us have in life. Only one. That’s to be a server of other human beings.”
Products and bottom lines, as well as copy and promotions are all secondary to the people we are serving. The customers we’re servicing to be sure, but more so, those under our employ. When our focus shifts from a product-centered mindset of a boss, to a people-focused mindset of a leader, growth occurs.
At the end of the day it boils down to this question: What drives our business? Sure, we can say that profits drive our business—and they can. But, dream for a bit. What if our business made profit, but to a greater extent, made a difference?
In my conversation with him, Howard Behar teaches and inspires us all by:
- Showing us the difference between a boss and a leader, and encouraging us to be leaders.
- Teaching us that profits and process are secondary to our servanthood.
- Inspiring us by saying, “…there is only one role that any of us have in Only one. That’s to be a server of other human beings.”
By servant-leading your people, your goal is to serve people, then watch the profits roll in. People will buy in, you will be fulfilled, and the soul of your business will be satisfied. And, isn’t that what it’s all about?
To hear more of my interview with Howard Behar on my THINK Business podcast please click here.