I feel like I’m being confronted regularly by the theme of serving others. I’m reading a book on getting more referrals, and the core of the message is connecting with others and helping them get what they want. The articles I have read and podcasts I have listened to have taken on a focus of serving. I just listened to a church sermon and the pastor spoke on building bridges to others and that our highest calling is to serve God and others.
We have all heard of servant leadership and mentally acknowledge the validity of the concept. The real problem with serving others though, is something that I think we must all admit — we are inherently self-centered. I think it is how we are built. We are self-interested, motivated to improve ourselves, be better, and succeed. While these motivations are not all bad, there is a paradox found here. It is setting our self-interest aside in exchange for true interest and service to others that really makes a person successful.
Here are My 7 Keys To Becoming a Servant Leader:
- Humble yourself. Humility can be defined in many ways, but I see it as simply NOT thinking too highly of yourself. This is counter culture, counter ego and opposite much of the self-reliance talk we see every day. We boast, we hide behind our cool persona (which probably isn’t really cool anymore), we choose to be aloof. People boast in their position, their wealth, their prowess at sports, their IQ, and the list goes on. Choose to set all of that aside and focus on how you can help those around you.
- Remind yourself daily. It is so easy to rush off to fulfill our own goals, dreams and priorities for the day. Recognize daily that while these things press upon us, success comes from service. Earl Nightingale put it so well when he said, “Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service.”
- Be uncomfortable. Serving others is not always in our comfort zone. To serve, we have to choose to interact. We have to choose to do something different. It is easier just to sit quietly, or not to ask that uncomfortable question that uncovers someone’s need. Be willing to share a tough situation you went through. Really listen when someone shares about their challenges. Be willing to ask that next question and express your concerns and compassion.
- Slow down and be present. So often we are on a schedule. We have to finish this meeting and get to the next. We have to get back to the office to finish that proposal. We have to check our email on our mobile device four times during a 15 minute conversation because we might miss something. Slowing down and expressing interest in others provides the opportunity to serve.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. As you think so are you. If you surround yourself with people and media who are constantly putting forth an attitude of self-promotion, it rubs off. Find others to serve with. Volunteer together. Take on a service project together.
- Sacrifice your own time, attention and money. Real service to others requires sacrifice. I still remember someone telling me this and it being somewhat of a revelation. To serve others you have to give up something. You may have to put aside something you need to get done. You may have to go help that other person even though your lawn needs mowed. You may have to carve time out of your overloaded schedule to serve or to listen to that person you just met who is struggling with a family issue or a work issue, or a loss.
- Be specific. Good intentions are a good start but often not enough. Something I read recently challenged me to take one or two hours each week to focus on helping others in my circle of influence. The suggestion was to keep a list of 20 or so people you might have the opportunity to help, and each week to spend this time reviewing the list, deciding on an action to take to help one or more of these people. I like that this process makes serving purposeful and concrete.
It is such a paradox that as we choose to serve others, we find success ourselves. It is in sacrifice that we find purpose and reward. Our intellect would tell us that if we give too much we might lose, and yet it is in giving that we succeed. If you have a story of how you achieved success in serving others, please share it.