I Believe in Servant Leadership

Hugh Gouldthorpe, Class of 1998 - Beaufort, South Carolina
Entered on April 24, 2012
Age Group: 65+

There is one simple question to ask if you are truly a servant leader, and that question is simply, “Are you self-serving or are you serving others?”

I’m a great believer that servant leaders are always there for those they serve. In doing this, they follow three basic principles:

Principle #1 focuses on letting the person know that you care about them. When people know you care they will move mountains for you. They will always try to exceed your expectations, as they do not want to let you down. In raising my children it was key to let them know daily that I cared about them and what they accomplished. The same holds true for teammates who work with me. Note that is said “work WITH ME” and not FOR ME. There is only a one-letter difference in the words WITH and FOR, but what a difference this letter makes. When you work WITH someone, they’re with you and they know that you truly care. When someone works FOR you, you put them at arm’s length; and arm’s length is a distance and a barrier to great communication.

My second principle is all about letting people know they make a difference. When people feel they make a difference, they take great pride in what they have accomplished and feel good inside. They are energized and want to own the project they are assigned. I was visiting a hospital several years ago and had an appointment to see a physician in regard to doing business with the hospital. The only time I could see this physician was at 6:00 a.m. As I walked down the halls, I saw an elderly gentleman sweeping the floors, smiling and just having fun. I stopped and said hello and said, “What are you doing that makes you so happy at six in the morning?” I will never forget his reply as he stated, “Me and the Doc are saving lives. I know if I keep these halls sterile and clean that the patients won’t get any infections and they will get to go home on time.” Obviously someone had let this wonderful gentleman know that he was making a difference . . . and what a difference he was making.

Last but certainly not least is my principle that letting those you come in contact with express themselves to you. We all like to be heard and to know that someone is interested in our thoughts and that we say counts. I used to roam throughout our home office asking our teammates, “what are we doing right; what are we doing wrong; what do we need to do to serve our customers better; and what do you need from us to make it easier for you to succeed, because we like you too much to let you fail.”

There is no magic to servant leadership; it’s simply the desire to serve others and help them succeed.