Leaders Serve.

One of the things that I love about working for my organization is the commitment to service. Sure, we have a commitment to serve our guests, but we also serve one another.

One time, I spent a week with leaders in another organization. These were truly some outstanding people for whom I have deep love and respect, but during the course of the week, while I was under their leadership, I noticed a certain anxiety building in me. By the end of the week, I identified the anxiety. It was the absence of being in the presence of servant leadership. During this time with these leaders, they practiced privilege rather than service. When there was a line, they were at the front. When we ate, they were served first. At events, they had premium seating. When others needed help, they allowed someone else to do it.

The absence of servant leadership that I experienced helped me to value what I may have taken for granted in my organization. Leadership is a tremendous responsibility to not only lead, but also to serve those we lead. In my organization, it is imbedded into our culture that leaders are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Leaders ensure that everyone is served before serving themselves. They give deference to others and do not expect, nor accept, privilege.

For a number of years, I had the privilege of reporting to a leader that both modeled and taught servant leadership. This particular executive began working as a teenager in a restaurant for a leader that provided a servant leadership model for him to follow. Thirty-five years later, this executive has personally modeled the same servant leadership that he learned from his boss when he was a teenager. The impact of one person on one teenage team employee, later turned executive, has helped shape the behaviors of an entire organization. Thousands of employees have been tremendously influenced to put service above privilege and millions of customers have received remarkable service experiences.

What are a few key behaviors of servant leadership?

1. Don’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do. One of the things that I learned from my leader was working side by side with my staff is very important. When they are in the trenches, I need to be in the trenches with them. When there is a challenging opportunity, we need to be right beside helping to solve the problem. He is a leader that won’t be found in the box seats at the game, but instead, working alongside employees that are serving the fans in the stands.

2. Acknowledge that every member of the team is important. In traveling to some of our business outlets with my leader, I watched as the very first thing he did was to introduce himself to every member of the team, learning names and asking questions to know them better. He rarely forgets a face or a name and people often feel valued that he takes the time to know them personally. Like his boss did for him when he was a teenager, he remembers to thank everyone for their service.

3. If there is a line, be the last one in it. Recently, I attended a company-wide event and we provided bus transportation for all of our employees to the event. As 1200 people took turns boarding the buses, this same executive was the very last one on the last bus. All the while, he was talking and visiting with employees, using the time to catch up both personally and professionally with people from all areas of the company. Putting others above yourself is the hallmark of a servant leader.

4. Share opportunities and privileges with those who might otherwise never have the opportunity.Not long after I joined my company, I was flying on a charter flight with my husband to our annual company meeting. I was an entry level employee and just grateful to be invited to the meeting. When we boarded the plane, we found our seats in first class. I watched as company executives passed through the first class section to the take their seats in the economy cabin.

5. Be inclusive. Another leader in my company, who calls himself the ‘curator of the culture,’ learned from his father, the founder, and knows that inclusivity is important to creating and growing a compelling culture. He seeks opinions and spends time with employees in all areas of the business and particularly enjoys connecting with leaders and employees in our business outlets.

At our corporate office, there are no reserved parking spots for executives or private executive dining rooms. The 350 plus capacity childcare center is available on a a first come, first served basis available to all full-time employees. The fitness center and the free group training and exercise classes operate on the same basis. Award winning leaders in the business units often have special celebrations to share their honors with their employees who have helped them achieve high goals. This type of inclusivity strengthens the culture at all levels of the organization. Individuals truly feel a part of the mission of the organization and feel treated with honor, dignity and respect.

Simon Sinek wrote in his book, Leaders Eat Last, “the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

You want to be a leader? Find somebody to serve.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dee Ann Turner

Dee Ann Turner

Dee Ann Turner is Vice President, Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A, where she began her career more than 30 years ago. She previously served as the Vice President, Corporate Talent for 16 years. Over the years, she has played an intricate role in growing Chick-fil-A’s unique and highly regarded culture while overseeing recruitment, selection, and retention of corporate staff and the recruitment and selection of Chick-fil-A Franchisees. Dee Ann’s insightful knowledge and applicable tools to building an incredible and influential company culture are revealed in her book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and A Compelling Culture.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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