Several years ago, my friend Bob Buford wrote a great book called Halftime (Zondervan, 1997). One of the key points he makes is, later in life, most people like the idea of moving from success to significance—from getting to giving. But you don’t have to wait until your life is half over. If you want to find an environment where people at all levels can experience both success and significance, look for an organization led by servant leaders.
Many people, as they go through life, focus mainly on success. To them, success is represented by wealth, recognition, and power and status. Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting those things, as long as you don’t think that’s who you are. But I’d like you to focus on the opposite of each of those things as you strive to move from success to significance.
What’s the opposite of accumulating wealth? It’s generosity—of your time, talent, treasure, and touch (reaching out to support others). What’s the opposite of recognition? It’s service. And what’s the opposite of power and status? It’s loving relationships.
If you focus only on success—wealth, recognition, and power and status—you will never reach significance. That’s the problem with self-serving leaders; they have a hard time getting out of their own way. But if you focus on significance—generosity, service, and loving relationships—you’ll be amazed at how much success will come your way. Take Mother Teresa, for example. She couldn’t care less about wealth, recognition, or status. Her whole life was focused on significance. And what happened? Success came her way. Her ministry received tremendous financial backing, she was recognized all over the world, and she was given the highest status wherever she went. Mother Teresa was the ultimate servant leader. If you focus on significance first, your emphasis will be on serving others—and success and results will follow.
Life is all about the choices we make as we interact with others. We can choose to be serving or self-serving. Life constantly presents us with opportunities to choose to love and serve one another.
Someone once said to my wife, Margie, “You’ve lived with Ken for more than 50 years. What do you think leadership is all about?”
Margie said, “Leadership isn’t about love—it is love. It’s loving your mission, loving your customers, loving your people, and loving yourself enough to get out of the way so that other people can be magnificent.”
That’s what servant leadership is all about.
To learn more about servant leadership, read Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results—a collection of 44 essays from today’s top servant leadership experts and practitioners, coedited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell. Available March 6. Preorder now from your favorite bookseller.