I am writing this article early on Memorial Day and it seemed fitting to me to dedicate it to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It’s been said there’s no greater love than the laying down of one’s life for a friend. Thankfully, I have never had to fight in a war but I can only imagine the tragedy of losing the life of a loved one because of war.
It seems completely minuscule and inept of me to link the workplace to the place of war, but it got me thinking how few employees see their jobs as sacrificing their own needs for the needs of others. From my experience, very few employees truly enjoy being of service to other people — many see the concept of servitude to be something beneath them. I often wonder what it is about our human condition that makes us so self-centered — often lacking a genuine concern for others.
I have also observed how most mediocre managers seem to have a mindset of, “I’m the boss, you’re not — do what I say, or else.” Conversely, I have observed that very few leaders see their role as being of service to others. When I consider the very best leaders I’ve ever worked for, I noticed how they were men and women who saw their role differently. Effective leaders engender followership because their direct reports see, hear and feel the leader’s genuine and consistent behavior that brings out the best of others around them.
We innately can tell the difference between mediocre managers who seem to be focused on the unholy trinity of me, myself and I and excellent leaders who manage themselves to be able to be of influence to others. Such leaders are others-focused — they see their role of one of service rather than to be served.
Please excuse me as I don’t intend to trivialize the horrific environment that is the battlefield but I can see so many connections with the workplace. Great leaders on the battlefield organize their troops and deploy resources in the most effective and efficient manner. Isn’t that what leaders in the workplace are meant to do?
History books are peppered with examples of poor leadership in battle and, conversely, truly inspiring stories of military leaders who led in the most difficult of circumstances. The latter, often categorized by leaders who led from the front — who were willing to admit their own errors and focused on bringing out the best from their followers. These were leaders that rose to the occasion and, quite literally, people were willing to give their lives for their country; their families; their own freedom and, I believe, all of this was because of the quality of leadership.
Never before in the history of our working lives has the call for excellent leadership been as audible as it is now. We only have to look around the battleground that is most workplaces. We see mediocre management rather than excellent leadership. We see self-serving managers rather than self-sacrificing leaders. Most teams don’t work. Many employees are not engaged with the mission, vision and values of their organization. To the vast majority of organizations, outstanding customer service is an oxymoron.
So, if you’re a business owner or if you’re a supervisor of sort, I respectfully remind you that you have a noble, honorable responsibility to be of service to the people you lead. What a radical idea it would be to consider that we really should give the very best of ourselves — almost a sacrifice you could say, to our customers, our colleagues and our vendors, each and every day.
On a personal note, as someone who is about to become an American citizen later this year, I offer a deep gratitude to all those who gave their lives for the country we now call “home.”
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.