“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.” – Anonymous
There are two kinds of leadership: power and service-oriented.
Lead by authority or lead by example. The world has seen leadership by authority for centuries. We now know that leadership by example is much more powerful and effective. To be on the cutting edge of leadership, we need to embrace service-oriented leadership.
How do the two models differ?
Leadership will always maintain an element of authority, but the defining difference between the two models is in how that authority is used. Power leadership sees people as a resource to be used, like a chest piece, for the sake of accomplishing goals. Service-oriented leadership recognizes that people and goals are integrated, so developing talent to their full potential helps everyone. A power-based leadership structure creates an environment of drone workers who punch the clock, do their job and go home to their real life. But a service leadership structure creates a culture of leaders at every level who are engaged and who actively contribute to everyone’s success.
The power of service
When you think servant leadership, think about people such as Martin Luther King Jr., John Wooden, John Maxwell, Cathy Truett, and many more. One of the most notable examples, Nelson Mandela, said, “A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”i
Each of these famous leaders has stories that validate the power of the service-leadership they lived. But it’s especially worthwhile to note that King and Mandela used service leadership to reform oppressive, authoritarian systems. If power leadership was more effective or powerful, then neither King nor Mandela would have succeeded.
Then, why is it so difficult to create a servant leadership culture?
The simple reason is that it’s harder. Service requires sacrifice. It’s about putting one’s self aside for the betterment of others and the overall mission of the organization. The military, top-performing athletic teams, and the most influential leaders of all time embrace this principle. But, truthfully, for most of us, it’s easier to be selfish. In fact, it is nearly impossible to yield our self-interest unless a common cause or mission becomes more important to us than the self-interest we’re naturally born with.
Introducing Darwin Smith: True service is looking out for the benefit of each other and the customer.
Not many people know about Darwin Smith, and that’s the point. He began as a simple in-house lawyer for Kimberly-Clark, but the future dramatically changed for both him and the company one day in 1971 when he was chosen to be the next CEO and chairman of the board.
He operated in that role for the next 20 years until retiring in 1991, and is known for saying of his position, “I was just trying to become qualified for the job.” He was more than qualified for it by transforming a company that had underperformed for over 20 years to outperforming the general stock market. ii Smith made bold moves to achieve that end, divesting several paper mills and strengthening the technology of its products. This paid off dramatically: Kimberly-Clark brands such as Kleenex and Huggies earned No. 1 rankings in market share, which elevated the company above its rivals Scott Paper and Procter & Gamble.
Yet, despite all his successes, Smith continually passed credit on to the employees, the managers, his predecessors and the customers. He led the way in developing continuing education and health programs for his employees. To this day, Kimberly-Clark prides itself on serving one billion people worldwide— all because its CEO believed service was the company’s No.1 goal.
Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC DBA Blueprint Leadership Diane Kucala, January 2019