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The Servant Metaphor May 20, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
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Over the years I’ve found this in several references, for example see Robert Greenleaf’s book Servant Leadership, and it’s become part of my core management philosophy. I believe that leadership requires personal sacrifice, a willingness to set aside individual success in favor of team success. Certainly there may be (should be?) personal satisfaction and fulfillment in watching a team achieve success, but that isn’t what inspires leadership. There’s a selflessness that’s required, and a willingness to share or even give up the spotlight.

To me, leadership isn’t just making the case for change and defining the future state. Leaders move rocks (remove barriers) and carry water (provide support and resources), making it possible for the team to focus their efforts on value-added activities.

I’m trained as a chemist, and I often imagine leaders as a catalyst, helping to lower and ultimately overcome the activation barrier, and thereby enabling the reaction to proceed to completion. The catalyst is not consumed in the reaction, and remains available to provide the same service later.

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