Last week, I had the fortune to enjoy the benefits of a concierge lounge at a prestigious hotel. As I was enjoying hors d’oeuvres, I initiated a game I like to play called “observe the people”. As simple as it sounds, it allows me to discern how people interact with each other and identify any interesting traits. I noticed and talked to people who were travelling for business, those that may be considered leaders in their respective industries. Most of those in the lounge could be considered a bit privileged in their expectations of both service and amenities of the lounge, not at all unreasonable in the context.
I noticed the host who was checking-in the guests into the lounge at his desk. He was busy registering people and providing information about the lounge. He was doing this continually for an hour as I was working on my computer getting some odds and ends done. As guests were getting drinks and food, I saw that the host had nothing to refresh his palette yet he was the busiest person in the lounge. With that awareness, I walked over to the host and offered to get him a drink and some food. He looked at me with surprise and said, “You are the first guest in 5 years who has offered me a drink.” That caught me by surprise. How could that be?
Have we gotten so invested in our privilege that we forget that part of our responsibility as leaders is to serve those that help us? If you are reading this and thinking, “Why should I serve those that I lead when they should be serving me?” you may have a learning opportunity to help yourself and your team, group, division or company. A major part of your job as a leader is to help maintain and improve the health of your employees. This takes a page from the concept of Servant Leadership.
Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term “servant leadership” in the 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader”. Greenleaf takes the approach of “the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived.”
While there are various key servant leadership attributes, the ones I find important are an ability to listen; capability to empathize with people; aptitude to heal others (both mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually; an awareness of your surroundings, ability to persuade and conceptualize, have foresight, be a steward to stakeholders, customers, partners, and employees; a commitment to grow people encouraging innovation, self-initiative, and learning; and a need to build community.
As a leader, your first response should be to greet your employees (aka, those you serve) and then ask if there is anything we can do for them and ask if you can remove any impediments in their way. Understand that by being that servant leader, you make your employees feel known and important. You should also remove their impediments helping them deliver products and services quicker, which has the benefit of making you money earlier than later. Remember, employees or those that are helping you. They are the engine to your success. Serve them. Remove their impediments, listen to their needs, and get them a drink. Is it time to get serious and sincere in helping them?