Step into a world where leadership norms are challenged, where the very essence of “Servant Leadership” is questioned, and a new dawn— the Leadership First Approach™— awaits. Buckle up for a journey of reflection and transformation. Prepare for an odyssey of introspection and metamorphosis.
*[insert Twilight zone theme music]*
“Servant Leadership.” The name alone invokes a paradox – a leader, a guide, a mentor—a servant? There’s a conundrum within the phrase, and I have to wonder, can leadership truly thrive under such a label?
The concept was popularized by Robert K. Greenleaf in the 1970s. In servant leadership, the leader’s primary role is to support and empower their team. And a recent comment from a post, closely relates: “Leadership is not about power or authority, but about serving and taking care of those under your guidance. Great leaders prioritize their team’s needs, growth, and success.”
While I resonate with the first part of the comment, the second gives me pause. Through the lens of the Leadership First Approach™, I’d rephrase it: “Leadership is not about power or authority, but about supporting and nurturing those within your guidance. Outstanding leaders prioritize their personal growth and development, in order to be able to foster their team’s progress and success.“
The journey to effective leadership starts from within.
Imagine leadership not as an act of self-effacement, but as a dedication to self-growth. Before reaching out to uplift others, we must fortify ourselves. It’s not about domination, but a foundation for genuine empowerment. By nurturing our own growth, we forge a path strewn with possibilities, lighting the way for those we lead.
I recognize the essence of servant leadership isn’t to sideline leaders, but to shift their focus from self-centered agendas to the team’s well-being. But you can’t focus on the team’s well-being if your own ‘vessel’ is empty.
Furthermore, “Servant” yields a different energy than “Supportive,” “Present,” “Intentional,” or even “Badass.” Leadership isn’t about power in the sense of reigning over others; it’s the powerful energy of showing up, fully engaged, deliberately bolstering those we guide. The energy coursing through leaders isn’t as a servant or in domination; it’s transformation.
We must create an equilibrium between personal growth and collective progress. While servant leadership underscores the priority of others, the Leadership First Approach™ harmonizes the orchestra of leadership. We don’t lose ourselves; we gain a stronger vantage point to guide the way.
As leaders, we’re not fading into the background. We’re claiming our roles with unwavering authenticity — setting a foundation first, and then carving a trail that propels our teams onward.
A concept of servant leadership is “If I make sure that everyone else is good, then I’m good” — that putting others first ensures success and well-being. It’s the “leaders eat last” concept written about by Simon Sinek. And what doesn’t sit well with me is that it eludes to the idea that “if you’re not putting others first, then you’re not doing a good job as a leader ” — and I disagree. As the leader you’re always going to work the hardest. You have the most responsibility and accountability on your plate. And in order to handle that (and do it well) you need to start within, and address Leadership First.
If you work hard as a leader, you deserve better than to be last.
> The dialogue continues. Share your insights, challenge preconceptions. Let’s redefine leadership. The voyage has just begun. <<
Also, you can check out the prequel to this article here.