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There are lots of descriptive words for leadership commonly used: strong leadership, strategic leadership, and smart leadership, for example. I have heard all these within the last week, but how about another “s” less heard about, ‘servant leadership’. When is the last time you heard that phrase in regard to business or political leaders? Surely this is the most important of all, serving those we lead?
Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last takes its title from the US Marines where the culture is that the officers ensure everyone else has enough to eat before they serve themselves. This is in complete contrast to much of the leadership we see in the 21st century, where leaders put themselves first, paying themselves ridiculous multiples of the average salary in their companies. They are eating first out of the pie and sometimes taking so much the company runs out of cash to pay real living wages for others. Take the current coronavirus economic crisis, how many leaders have taken a pay cut in order to save jobs of those that work for them. It is normally those whom they serve who take the hit on redundancies or pay cuts before they do.
In our reception area in our currently unused offices, there are two picture frames hanging with head shots of our whole team. A number of people have commented on these when they have come in to visit saying things like how strange they find it that the people are all mixed up and not put in some kind of hierarchy? Personally I would find it odd if they were, never being a fan of organograms looking like a family tree. If we do have to have them, and I understand they can be helpful, then please don’t organise them with the leaders at the top. If anything the leaders should be at the bottom conveying the message that they are supporting those in their teams above them. We organise ours with the leadership team in the middle as a hub of the wheel with the more important actors around the edge.
Many of today’s leaders expect to be served rather than serve, and it is time to turn things around. Starting with the industrial revolution, we have gradually seen the three key components of civilisation commoditised: money, the land or earth and people. Money is meant to be a convenient way to trade yet grew to be a commodity and in 2008 the ridiculous commodisation of money was exposed as being a house of cards. In 2019, there was a mass realisation that the way humans had commoditised the planet had to stop and a climate emergency was called for. Now in 2020, the commoditisation of people resulting in huge inequalities due to poverty and skin colour is being exposed for the abuse that it is. It is servant leadership that we desperately need to lead us forward. Those who lead putting others first.
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