Much has been written lately about giving and serving with the creation of All For Good, the craigslist of service created by the White House, Google, Facebook Connect and the Huffington Post. Scores of posts have narrated good deeds and needed opportunities for service and how it makes our country better, and it does. But I wonder if those in leadership positions realize the example they can set by serving others: those for whom they work, work with and those who work for them.
Years ago I went through an inspirational leadership course. One of the most memorable modules for me was titled: Leader as Servant. It taught that in order to be a true leader, one must serve and give to others. I fear that concept has been almost totally lost in today's business world.
Good, strong business leaders can exert more influence than they realize on those with whom they work and, therefore, on the service component in our country. What does it mean for a leader to serve colleagues, peers and others? Let's look at six ways one can do that.
LEAD: One leads, first of all, by the example of hard work. Respect others and honor their commitment by your own hard work. Don't ask anyone to work harder than you do. One also leads through knowledge. Demonstrate that you really know your product/service.
TEACH: Instill the special knowledge that you possess into those with whom you work.
PROVIDE: Make resources and support available so everyone can be successful at their job. Nothing demoralizes someone more than being asked to do a job, very much wanting to accomplish it, only to find he/she hasn't the resources to do so.
INSPIRE: Give those around you the respect and love they deserve as human beings. They may be your superiors, your peers or your subordinates, but they all will flourish on large doses of love and respect.
MENTOR: Counsel those around you. I don't mean be their therapist, but as one who cares and who can assist them in being successful. Promote them when they deserve it. Sure, they may be transferred away or be hired away, but you will have demonstrated that, as a leader, you have put their best interest ahead of yours or the organizations.
SERVE: When taken together, all these elements provide the framework of service, the kind of leadership you can provide which will, by example, encourage others to join and expand the culture of service throughout our country. Now that you've created a culture of service around you need to again set the example by actively serving others
There are limitless opportunities to serve in our country, but you, as a leader, need to choose those opportunities where you will make a difference and an impact. Joyce Roche', Board Chair of Dillard University and Pres.& CEO of Girls, Inc describes how important this is:
"Volunteering is important not only for the institution, but also for the volunteer. So often in our day-to-day work, things become routine or are so hectic that you ask yourself, "What impact did I have today?" or "Am I making a difference?" Knowing you've made a difference energizes you no matter how hard you might be working. In volunteering, especially for something you are passionate about, this is a gift you receive."
As a leader you may choose to become a board member of a charity where you can make a difference, and there are many resources available for you to prepare yourself to make that difference. One of these is the Association of Governing Boards www.agb.org/ which publishes training materials, newsletters and provides training seminars. There are courses available in most cities and online as well. Many cities have training programs for prospective board members. In Chicago, you can contact: www.1-800-volunteer.org/
Bottom line is you need to demonstrate your leadership by serving and making a difference in our non-profit community. You get to choose where and how, but you need to choose now.