The High Calling of Servant Leadership

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
–      Albert Einstein

A story is told that during the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them.

Asked by the rider, he responded with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!” The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief and I will come and help you again.” The man was none other than George Washington.

Harold S. Geneen said, “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and actions.” And this is the essence of servant leadership. When talk becomes action; when ones purpose as a leader transcends position, and serving others is the norm rather than the exception, that is when leadership is truly understood.

Former President George H. W. Bush was recently asked in a Time magazine interview as to whether he has seen a shift in the past twenty years in the public’s attitude toward service. He replied, “I think so. I hope so. Many schools include a service project as part of their curriculum, and many corporations have in-house projects for their employees or give them time off to do volunteer work. There’s a greater understanding about the importance of giving back.” This is encouraging when you consider how great the need is for servant leaders today.

Creating a culture of servant leadership in business is needed today. Here I offer three simple concepts towards that end and how service can elevate your organization to a higher level.

Service is a model of leadership. The simplest definition of leadership comes from John Maxwell who defines it in one word– influence. A servant leader is one understands that his influence individually can make a difference, but collectively can make a huge impact.

As a leader, when you rally your people, time, and resources around causes greater than yourself, you are modeling the greatest use of leadership. James Freeman Clarke said, “Strong convictions precede great actions.” What great causes are you and your organization rallying around?

Service is the blessing of leadership. Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The blessing of leadership is found in the meaningful ways you find to enrich the loves of others. It is not always about finding ways to help others who can’t help themselves, although you should. It is also about connecting with those around you to add value in tangible ways.

When was the last time you praised a co-worker for a job well done? How about sending a personal note of encouragement to a colleague going through a slump? When the idea of being a blessing becomes your corporate culture you will move your business into a whole new realm of purpose.

Service is the reward of leadership. Do you want to position your team for greatness? As you set the example of servant leadership within your organization, there will be a buy-in among your team that will have significant meaning.

Jim Rohn said, “Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness – great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy.”  When you become a catalyst for servant leadership it will open doors you never imagined.

Where will you serve today?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and leadership speaker. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your business or civic organization. Visit for more information.


One thought on “The High Calling of Servant Leadership

  1. The greatest Leader who ever lived said,”I came not to BE served, but TO serve” and “He who be the greatest among you must become the servant of all.”

    Thanks for reminding us of the importance of servant leadership…

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