Why ego must go

November 16, 2019

(Part 1 of 2)

“AKO ba’y inuutusan mo?” (Are you telling me what to do?”)

A division head actually said that. A staff asked him to sign off some reports that needed to be submitted to an external agency. It is of small wonder that when he retired early, nobody bothered to throw him a despedida party.

We keep hearing of companies that say “Our people are our greatest assets.” I beg to differ. An organization’s greatest asset is its leaders, especially the right kind of leaders. The staff I mentioned may be the best man for his job; but his morale and output are affected by the kind of boss he reports to.

Many who hold positions of power have the mistaken notion that they are to bark orders and lord it over their direct reports. Don’t get me wrong. There will be situations when a leader must assert his authority and issue no-nonsense orders. He may even have to make the hard choice of firing a poor performer. After all, the leader has to meet corporate targets. Otherwise, he won’t be a leader for long.

This brings us to servant leadership. At its basic level, it means not being a prima donna, as if the staff are there to serve you hand and foot. When appropriate, you spare them of inconvenience and provide them what they need to do their jobs. Notice I said “when appropriate” because being a servant leader does not mean being a doormat, granting every request, and letting the staff run all over you. The balance is to lead the team while asking “How can I help you succeed?” or “What support do you need from me to meet your goals?”

So how can we as leaders nurture a servant’s mindset?

The first step is to reinvent yourself. Who are you? I don’t mean your name and job title. I mean the way you view yourself in relation to others. To live a life of great purpose, you must first have a great identity. Choose the identity of a servant leader.  

This takes courage. You must be secure with yourself that you don’t find it demeaning to be humble, sensitive, and supportive. Let go of your fears that you will be taken advantage of. Remember: “when appropriate”. If you see yourself as one to be served, don’t be surprised if your direct reports obey you out of indifference, fear, or even resentment. But if you adopt the identity of one who serves, people generally respond with goodwill, respect, and gladness.

The second step is to remember that people hear with their eyes. You got it right. People don’t really pay attention to what you say; they observe what you do. If you stand for servant leadership, you must walk the talk. While it is important for the leader to meet corporate goals (for example, market share or production output), I believe his real role is to model virtues such as empathy, humility, compassion, and discipline. I have seen that when a leader is respected, he is well-loved. And when he is well-loved, people go the extra mile, which works wonders for attaining those corporate goals.

To be concluded next week. Meantime, great news! My website www.nelsontdy.com is now on-line. Please visit it for more encouraging resources.