I answered a critical question incorrectly during my last job interview; "What does a News Director do?". Of course, my answer was pretty obvious; "Direct the overall news product." I mean...duh, right? Nope.
The corporate suit interviewing me coolly looked across the desk and said, "Brook, the primary role of a News Director is to make every individual on his team better". It was a defining moment in my career trajectory.
"What I know now that I didn't know then is the power of servant leadership."
Imagine a world where every leader pours everything they have into making their teams stronger. Instead of bullying, unrealistic demands or shaming - leaders focus on individual growth, equipping teams with tools and training to succeed and inspire genuine motivation. What great heights would we achieve then?
To that end, I will share with you a few things I've learned along the way in the hopes that you will become a stronger servant leader.
- Listen. This is much harder than it sounds. Sometimes you're just too busy, too tired or too fed up with situations to take a moment to stop and listen to a team member. But listening is critical to servant leadership because it builds a mutual respect. You are actively validating their feedback. Most times you'll find telling someone "no" or "not right now" goes over much better if they feel their feedback was actually heard. And more often than not, you'll discover they have good feedback, innovative ideas and solutions to problems!
- Respond. After you listen - act! Some actions are swift and simple. Fix a broken tool, update a communication breakdown or praise/correct a team member. Some actions are complex and take time to accomplish. Change a culture, invest in an individual, redefine company direction. In these cases, I've found open dialogue about the ongoing process is helpful. Let the team know there is progress!
- Explain your decisions. You don't have to justify your decisions. But I have found an open and honest approach to the decision-making process has helped build an understanding of shared goals, shared obstacles, shared ethics and shared culture. I had a
manager (years ago) tell me "No" to an idea I had. When I asked why, the answer I got was, "Because...no". Do you know what I learned in that exchange? Nothing that could help me grow and better benefit the company. But I learned volumes about the manager. At that moment I chose to stop contributing and stop caring.
- Be selfless. Give the victories to your team. Take the failures for yourself. Give until you are utterly spent and then give more. Countless times during my morning drive to work I would pray that God help me be more than I am...because the team needs me to be more.
And then an amazing thing happens.
The more you pour yourself into serving your team, the stronger they become. And as they each become stronger, so does the overall product.
Despite my failure to answer the most basic question correctly, the corporate suit gave me the job and told me to go lead.
But for me, that was the day I truly began to serve