Why Isn’t Every Leader a Servant Leader?

My wish is that someday, every leader will be a servant leader. Unfortunately, the human ego can make it difficult. There are two ways we let our ego get in the way of leading with a serving heart and mindset.

One is false pride—thinking more of yourself than you should. You push and shove for credit and think leadership is about you rather than those you lead. Leaders who operate with false pride spend time doing a lot of self promotion. Another way the ego gets in the way is through self doubt or fear—thinking less of yourself than you should. You become consumed with your own shortcomings and are hard on yourself. Leaders who operate with fear spend time protecting themselves because they don’t really believe in their own talents.

Managers with either of these ego afflictions are not effective leaders. Let me explain what false pride and self doubt look like in action.

Managers dominated by false pride are often seen as controlling. Even when they don’t know what they are doing, they have a high need for power and control. When it’s clear to everyone they are wrong, they keep insisting they are right. In addition, they don’t support their staff members very well. When things are going well and people are feeling upbeat and confident, controllers tend to throw a wet blanket over everything. They support their bosses over their people because they want to climb the hierarchy and gain more control and power.

On the other side of the spectrum, fear-driven managers are often characterized as do-nothing bosses. They are described as never being around, always avoiding conflict, and not very helpful. They tend to undermanage even when people are insecure and need support and direction from a leader. This is because do-nothing bosses don’t believe in themselves or trust their own judgment. They value the opinions of others more than their own—especially the opinions of people they report to. As a result, they rarely speak up to support their own people. Under pressure, they tend to defer to whoever has the most power.

If any of this sounds a bit too close for comfort, don’t be alarmed. Most people have traces of both false pride and self doubt. The good news is that there is an antidote for both.

The antidote for false pride is humility. According to Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, there are two main characteristics that describe great leaders: will and humility. Will is the determination to follow through on a vision, mission, or goal. Humility is the capacity to realize that leadership is not about the leader—it’s about the people and what they need to be successful.

The antidote for self doubt is unconditional love. If you have kids or are very close with other family members or friends, you know that your love for them doesn’t depend on their success. You love them unconditionally whether they are successful or not. Loving yourself as a leader will help you operate with confidence and put self doubt to rest.

The best way to start serving others is to be open to the concepts of humility and unconditional love and practice them until they become habit. When that happens, you are well on your way to becoming a servant leader.

2 thoughts on “Why Isn’t Every Leader a Servant Leader?

  1. Philippians 4:8 is a scripture that is very familiar to the servant leader. One keeps in mind that all we do we do for God and others. When our thoughts are on others we are blessed, and others will seek us out because of our love, one to another. Times change, but the desire to help others should be our mission always, in all ways.


    Rev. Sunee S. Robinson

    *Your Sister in Christ623-594-4000**CEO and President of the following,*

    * Center for Leadership Development and Enhancement* * A Divine Fishing Ministry-A Haven of Hope-Love-Healing Prayer and PEACE*

    *I preach to teach, I teach to reach, I reach to learn, I learn to read, I read to grow, and I grow to preach.*

  2. Rachel Naomi Remen, clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, in a talk given at the “Open Heart, Open Mind” conference in San Diego, California, in July 1995, made an observation about the caregiving relationship that applies equally to leadership. She said, “Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals . . . . Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.” Remen went on to say, “Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person, I perceive them as broken. There is distance be¬tween ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing [and] we cannot serve at a distance.”

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