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.
“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and
actions” said Harold S. Geneen. And this is the essence of servant
leadership. When talk becomes action; when one’s 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 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. “I think so, I hope so,” he
replied. “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 today for servant
Servant leadership can transform your life and your business. Here are
three simple insights to bring it into focus.
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 who
understands that his influence individually can make a difference, but
collectively can make a huge impact.
When you rally your people, time, and resources around causes greater
than self, you are modeling the greatest use of leadership. “Strong
convictions precede great actions,” said James Freeman Clarke. He’s
right. What great causes are you and your organization rallying
Service is the blessing of leadership.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father in heaven,” said Jesus (Matthew 5;16). The
best way to “find yourself” is by serving others. It’s as you give of
your time, talent, and treasure that you begin to see the world around
you in a different light. Servant leadership has nothing to do with
weakness or being a doormat, but has everything to do with using your
gifts and talents in a positive way.
When was the last time you praised a co-worker for a job well done?
Who is the colleague going through a difficult time that could use
your encouragement? How about giving a gift card to your hard working
admin to express your appreciation? 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, the buy-in
among your team will have significant meaning. Simply put, there are
some rewards that will come your way that have nothing to do with your
bottom line. But the change in your company culture will be priceless.
“Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness —
great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and
great joy,” said Jim Rohn. Are you ready to open doors of greatness?
As you become a catalyst for servant leadership it will open up new
realities for you that you never knew existed.
Who will you serve today?
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at