I have always believed that the role of a leader is to serve his/her family and his/her team. If in business we focus on serving our team and customers honorably, we will always be serving our upline and company honorably.
Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared his view on “winning” leadership with me one day. He said, “I’ve always focused on serving my troops honorably, and by doing so, I knew I was serving my country and superiors likewise.”
If we apply this idea, then one of the most important aspects of servant leadership is rooted in one’s character. John Morley said, “No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.” Character is one of the most difficult words in the English language to define, but it is one of the easiest to perceive. A person’s character is something we can sense almost immediately and it is also clearly demonstrated over time.
Character is the collection of personal attributes that encompass all the admirable, inner qualities of human nature and are always aligned with the servant leader. The quality of our character determines the quality of our actions and our leadership. Having good character is essential if you want to live as a servant leader.
Character enables us to do what is right for the right reasons. When we act with good character, we develop integrity and gain the inner sense of satisfaction that comes with it. I have always said, “You can be right, or you can do the right thing.” They are not always the same thing however. When we know that we have done right, we allow ourselves the opportunity to become a strong servant leader.
I recently read a book on leadership where the author stated, “It is sometimes frightening to observe the success which comes even to the outlaw with a polished technique, but I believe we must reckon with character in the end, for it is as potent a force in the world’s conflicts as it is in our own domestic affairs. It strikes the last blow in any battle.”
These comments are a frightening reminder for those who want to lead by fear and intimidation. You can and probably will have results, however, the challenge is they will be short-lived. Servant leaders focus on helping their teams for the long-term. They know that their actions, less their words, matter in the end. Do you tell your team what to do, or do you teach them by showing them and do it with them? We ask people for their best and highest effort. The servant leader always gives their best and highest effort to their family and team. They are the example.
The more authentic and genuine a person is, the more effective he or she is as a leader. Why? The strength of one’s character makes them trustworthy and believable. People become much more willing to follow you in any pursuit—business, government, athletics, education, community service, anything—if they have reason to trust your character. This enables the servant leader to get the best out of themselves and their teams.
There’s a Japanese proverb, “When a tiger dies he leaves his stripes behind, and when a man dies he leaves his name behind.” Have you considered what people will remember about you when you leave your name behind? How will you be remembered as a leader?
As you continue to serve others in a leadership position, you are going to be presented with amazing opportunities—to build a successful, profitable business; to raise a family; to run for elected office, or to serve in government. You may create a nonprofit organization. You may be a coach or a teacher or an attorney. You may decide to go into medical or scientific research. In every situation, your character will strike the last blow. In every situation, your character is what will leave the most indelible impression. The strength of your character determines the magnitude of your willingness to serve those you lead.
St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, responded to some questions from members of the early church in Corinth. They asked him, “What are the things in life that are permanent, on which we can build priorities that are superlative?”
St. Paul said, “They are the things you cannot see.” This response may seem strange at first. What are the things that are permanent that we cannot see, but that we use as a foundation for setting our priorities? It is character, and the qualities that make up our character—honesty, respect for law, decency, tolerance, trustworthiness, fairness, and duty. Our character is embedded in the priorities we have as servant leaders.
Servant Leadership will keep your feet firmly planted on the ground as this information age swirls around us. The more personal success you have, the more you need to embrace the role of being a servant leader. What is in your heart is what you will communicate by the way you act. Your good name is what you will leave as your ultimate legacy to your children. When your time comes to leave this earth, what you possess will belong to someone else; but what you are will be yours forever. Remember character is built slowly, but it can be torn down with incredible swiftness.
People on your team need you. They need a leader who has their best interest at heart. They need authenticity, kindness, and someone who compels them to give their best and highest effort at all times. They need someone they can follow who will serve them as they mature and grow and ultimately serve their own teams.
BO SHORT is an author, speaker, and leadership expert. Among his network marketing credits he has risen to the highest levels of recognition in several companies and became famous for combining technical expertise, coaching, and leadership development. Bo currently serves as President of The Pivot Group, an independent distributor group. He recently was President of Global Sales and Field Development for a publicly traded direct selling company. He also served as President of the American Leadership Foundation and sits on boards and committees for numerous national non-profit organizations.
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