The title of this post is an old Japanese proverb. Today we often call this leadership style servant-leadership and in my opinion it still reflects the essence of great leadership. Leadership is not to be confused with management and not every Manager can become a leader, but every leader must possess good management knowledge and skills.

When I talk about Management, I talk about finding and retaining good people, helping them develop, proving them clarity about what is to be done, appraising and evaluating their performance and ultimately letting people go.

Leadership on the other hand is harder to define and depend heavily on the individual in the position. Leadership, I believe, is a calling to serve the people you are responsible for to the best of your abilities. You as a leader have a great impact on their work, emotional and economic well-being. It’s a responsibility you need to take serious and care about.

If your primary driver to becoming a leader is status, recognition, a corner office, company car or making more money, there is a good change you will not succeed. If you take credit for results created by the people in your organizations and is quick to blame them when things go wrong, when you might want to consider an alternative career.

As a servant-leader you have to be courageous. You have to be courageous enough to be vulnerable and admit you don’t have all the answers. You need to be authentic and share some of yourself and people need to feel that you are truly present, if you want them to follow you. You need to be accepting of others and involve and engage them, if you want to foster a productive culture of creativity and accountability. You need to be loyal to the team, if you expect them to be loyal to you.

In essence, I believe servant-leadership is about understanding, that nothing positive can be accomplished without the support of those doing the work.

This post was partly inspired by the book The Servant Leader by James A. Autry. In my next post I will discuss loyalty in more details.

Please feel free to use the comments field to share your take on leadership.

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